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Ependymoma Tumors

What is Ependymoma?

Ependymoma is a type of glioma, which is a brain tumor that arises from the brain tissue. Like other gliomas, ependymomas have varying degrees of aggressiveness.

Ependymomas are thought to arise from the ependyma — the surface that lines the ventricles (inner fluid chambers) of the brain and the central canal of the spinal cord.

Ependymomas are generally resistant to chemotherapy, so their surgical removal is a mainstay of treatment.

At UPMC, Gamma Knife® radiosurgery may also be a treatment option.

Diagnosing an Ependymoma

To help diagnose an ependymoma brain tumor, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and order imaging tests.

Symptoms of ependymomas

Ependymoma symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness or loss of sensation in the arms and/or legs
  • Speech, vision, or memory problems
  • Personality changes

Tests for diagnosing an ependymoma

Doctors can identify ependymomas on imaging studies, such as MRI or CT scans.

Ependymoma Treatments

Your neurosurgical team at UPMC may recommend a combination of surgical and non-surgical approaches to ependymoma treatment.

Surgery

Whenever possible, ependymomas are surgically removed.

UPMC neurosurgeons will thoroughly evaluate you and find a path to the tumor that is least disruptive to your brain, critical nerves, and ability to return to normal functioning.

Gamma Knife® stereotactic radiosurgery for ependymomas

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a painless procedure that uses hundreds of highly focused radiation beams to target tumors and lesions within the brain, with no surgical incision. 

Gamma Knife treatment may be an option for people with residual tumor after surgery or recurrent ependymoma brain tumors. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a method to non-invasively boost the effectiveness of radiation delivered to the tumor.

As the nation's leading provider of Gamma Knife procedures, our team has treated more than 12,000 patients with tumors (such as ependymomas), vascular malformations, pain, and other functional problems.

UPMC neurosurgeons may also treat your ependymoma with stereotactic radiosurgery using the Cyberknife and other linear accelerator-based systems.

Radiation therapy

If surgery isn't an option for your ependymoma, you may receive radiation therapy. Your doctor may deliver radiation therapy:

  • Externally, by directing radiation at the ependymoma from an outside source.
  • Internally, by placing radioactive material directly in the body near the ependymoma.

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Dr. L. Dade Lunsford discusses Gamma Knife Radiosurgery.