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Anaplastic ependymoma is a type of malignant ependymoma tumor commonly found in young patients. These tumors grow rapidly and many people who develop them will experience complications or even die. This is especially true if the tumor is not caught and treated early. The majority of these growths, although rare, appear in children and adults that are younger than 25 years old. Tumors like this can appear in older adults, but are much more rare.
Ependymoma tumors grow from cells inside of the brain cavity or spinal column. Depending on where the tumor is located, it can produce several different symptoms. Difficulty walking, trouble sleeping, memory loss, and vision impairments may occur because of an anaplastic ependymoma. Tumors that are situated at the back of the brain may block off cerebrospinal fluid, causing vomiting, headaches, and nausea. A child may become uninterested in food and eating because of the anaplastic lesion.
The diagnosis of an anaplastic ependymoma can sometimes be difficult because the symptoms associated with the tumor are also associated with other diseases and maladies. Typically, an MRI or CT scan is used to locate the tumor. Many doctors prefer to use an MRI because they believe it shows more detail. When a doctor looks at the tumor under a microscope, it can also be difficult for him to determine whether the tumor is a regular ependymoma or an anaplastic ependymoma because there are very subtle differences between the two kinds of cells.
Normal ependymomas will be slow-growing and usually are treated with radiation. These types of growths are considered to be low-grade. Anaplastic ependymomas, however, are considered as high-grade tumors or lesions, and many times require surgery and radiation. Chemotherapy is also sometimes used. The type of treatment that a doctor recommends for a malignant ependymoma generally depends on the age of the patient.
Surgery to remove the tumor is not always a cure. Although a surgeon may remove all of the tumor, malignant cells may still be present in the brain. These cells may be killed by chemotherapy or radiation. If they are not, the cancerous cells may form a new tumor or may spread through the cerebrospinal fluid to other areas of the body. Anaplastic ependymoma cells that have spread from the brain are more likely to be found in patients that are less than five years of age.