Maybe your child started having trouble with their balance. Or their vision seemed worse than usual. When you took them to the doctor, they discovered a tumor. Ependymomas are tumors of the central nervous system, which means they could be in the brain or the spine. In either place, they can block the flow of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). Surgery is the best option.
At UVA Health Children's, our neurosurgery program is one of the best in the country. And, as the #1 Children's Hospital in Virginia, we have the resources to care for your family through this difficult time.
Treating Ependymomas at UVA Health Children's
To find the location and size of your child's brain tumor, we'll do some imaging tests. Our pediatric radiologists use special techniques and tools to get high-quality images with less radiation. They also know how to help kids who may feel anxious about getting an MRI or X-ray.
We may also test your child's spinal fluid. This is called a lumbar puncture or spinal tap. This test gives us useful information about the tumor and rules out other issues, like infection.
Then, we'll talk with your family about treatment plans and options.
Surgery for Ependymoma
Removing the ependymoma is the best option. At UVA Health Children's, an experienced brain surgeon (neurosurgeon) will take out as much of the tumor as possible. In many cases, we're able to get the entire tumor.
Once removed, we'll test the tumor. This confirms the diagnosis. It also gives us more information about the types of cells and how aggressive they are. Sometimes, no other treatments are necessary.
Sometimes, the entire tumor can't be removed. Or tests show that it's an aggressive type of cancer. In these cases, your child may need radiation or chemotherapy. Your child can do those treatments here, or we can work with a local medical provider that can provide those treatments close to home. We may even be able to help your child complete chemo at home.
It's normal to have a lot of questions when your child has a brain tumor. Here are some of the most common questions we hear about ependymomas.
What caused an ependymoma?
No one knows what causes ependymomas. They're very rare, making up only 2% of brain tumors. People with neurofibromatosis type 2 are at a slightly increased risk.
We may recommend genetic testing for your child. If they test positive, you may want to test any other children you have as well.
Who's at risk for ependymoma?
Ependymomas occur most often in children under the age of 10.
How long will my child need follow-up care?
It's recommended that all children with brain cancer have lifelong follow-up care. Read more about survivorship here.
How long will it take my child to recover from surgery?
Everyone's recovery is a little different. In general, we'll recommend that your child to take things easy for a month or 2. Depending on where the tumor is, we may recommend a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech therapist.
You may also need help coming up with a plan for your child's education. While they're in the hospital, the Hospital Education Program (HEP) can help with schoolwork. When they go home, we can help you with getting accommodations from your child's school.
Even after the ependymoma is removed, many families deal with stress and need help coping. Learn more about the many support communities available.