Glioma

1 What is Glioma?

Glioma is a tumor commonly found in the brain and the spinal cord. They start as glial cells which are known to be supportive cells surrounded by the nerve cells which help them to function or grow.

There are several types of the glials cells that can produce tumors. Often, they are characterized depending on the type of the glial cells that are involved in the formation of the tumor.

First type if tumor is the astrocytoma’s which can either be astrocytoma, anaplastic astrocytoma and glioblastoma.

Second, is ependymomas which is also referred to as anaplastic ependymoma, myxopapillary ependymoma and subependymoma.

Finally, the third category of the glioma tumors is the oligodendrogliomas which is characterizes into oligodendroglioma, anaplastic oligodendroglioma and anaplastic oligoastrocytoma.

The gliomas affect the function of the brain and can be very life threatening depending on the parts of the brain that is affected. It is also determined by their rate of growth.

They are also one of the most common types of primary brain tumors. The treatment and prognosis is also controlled by the type of glioma.

Some of the options available for treatment includes:

2 Symptoms

There are several symptoms that accompany tumor growth for glioma.

They however vary depending on the type, location, size, and rate of growth of the tumor.

The common signs and symptoms may include:

  • Headache,
  • Nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • confusion,
  • decline in brain function.

Sometimes, patients may experience;

  • loss of memory,
  • change in personality,
  • irritability,
  • difficulty with balance,
  • incontinence in urinary,
  • vision problems;
  • blurred, double or complete loss of peripheral vision.

Moreover, some people may lose speech, and some develop seizures. It is important that one makes an appointment with the doctors.

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3 Causes

Just like other tumors of the brain, the main cause of gliomas is unknown. However, others factors may increase your risk to brain cancers.

4 Making a Diagnosis

When it is suspected that you have glioma, you will be required to visit a specialist for the nervous system disorders (neurologist) to receive a diagnosis.

A number of tests and procedures may be requested. This may involve the use of a neurological exam where the doctor will check for your vision, hearing, balance and coordination and strength. Any of the effects on one of these parts of the brain may provide information on the affected areas of the brain.

Imaging tests can also be done using Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and is often used in the diagnosis of the affected parts of the brain tumors. Dyes can also be used as contrast materials which can be injected IV in your arm during the MRI disease diagnosis.

This enables the showing of the differences in the brain tissues. Other functional MRI scans can also be performed, they include: Functional MRI, Perfusion MRI and magnetic resonance spectroscopy which is key in the evaluation of the tumor and the type of treatment.

Computerized tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET) can also be used. MRI scans can also be done to find others forms of brain tumors which may be able to spread to other body parts.

Proper diagnosis when done can reveal the source of the cancer that is promoting metastasis.

On certain occasions, abnormal tissues can be collected for testing. However, this will depend on the location of the glioma.

A biopsy collection can be performed using a needle before treatment can be considered or even before an operation to remove the brain tumor can be done.

A stereotactic needle biopsy can be done for gliomas in parts of the body that are very hard to reach or in section of the body that are very sensitive such as within your brain or in areas that may be prone to damage by use of surgery.

A small hole is drilled into the skull before a needle can be inserted through the hole. Tissues can then be removed through the needle under the guidance of CT or MRI scanning.

The sample of tissues (biopsy) can then be scanned and analyzed using a microscope to evaluate for the presence of the cancer or tumor. In is known that using a biopsy, it is the only best way through which the brain tumor can be diagnosed or to give guidance for the treatment decisions.

This will also allow the pathologist to make decisions on the grade of the brain tumor. There are four grades of tumor: Grade 1 which have the slowest rate of growing and are considered, the most benign. Grade IV is considered the most abnormal and aggressive cancer cells.

5 Treatment

Treatment relies on the type of Glioma, size, grade and location of the tumor on the brain. It can also be conditioned by the general health preferences.

Actions for removing the tumor themselves may also be used. However, treatments are also done to reduce the signs and symptoms of the tumor.

Some of the drugs in the market used include the use of steroids so as to reduce the swelling and to relieve the pressure on the affected parts of the brain. In case of seizures, anti-epileptic drugs can be used for their management.

Surgery is the other option for removing the tumor when possible as a first strategy for treating gliomas. In case they are very small and easy for removal from the surrounding of the healthy brain, they can be surgically removed, but in cases where separation is not possible.

Only tumor that when removed will still allow you to be safe will be removed. Even just a slight part of the brain tumor when removed can be of help for the signs and symptoms of the disease.

Neuropathologists may also be involved in the process of analysis of samples removed from the brain when surgery is still underway. The information received can help the doctor to make a decision of the amount of tissues that can be removed.

A number of surgical procedures may be used in helping the neurodurgeon in dissecting the health brain to remove the tumor. This include the use of the computer assisted brain surgery and intraoperative MRI. Use of surgery to remove the glioma comes with risks of infection and excessive bleeding.

There are other risks which relies on the part of the brain on which the part of the brain affected is located.

For instance, surgery on a tumor near the nerves that connect to the eyes may lead to the loss of vision.

Radiation therapy can also be applied in the management of the high grade gliomas. Radiation therapy often comes after treatment in the management of glioma. They apply the use of high energy x ray beams in killing the tumor cells.

Decision on the use of the external beam radiations such as X rays are controlled by the grade of glioma, prognostic conditions and the type of glioma that one is suffering from.

These are used in determining the timing and the type of radiation to be used. Computers are used in targeting the parts of the brain that is affected. Protons can also be used in place of X- rays as the main source of the radiations for Proton beam surgery.

Similarly, stereotactic radiation therapy can also be used for radiosurgery. This applies multiple beams of radiations to produce highly focused forms of radiation treatment that will kill the tumors in a small area.

Several types of technology can be applied in radiosurgery so as to treat brain tumors as gamma knife or linear accelerator (LINAC). This however comes with side effects such as the type and dose of the radiation that you receive.

They include:

  • fatigue,
  • headache,
  • ad scalp irritation.

Chemotherapy can also be used as a form of treatment for tumors. It applies the use of drugs which can be taken orally or injected into a vein intravenously. It can be used in combination with radiation therapy to treat gliomas.

Common drugs used include temozolomide (Temodar) which is consumed as a pill. Side effects rely on type and dose of the drugs that one receives. It may also be accompanied with

Moreover, targeted drug treatment can also be used for specific abnormalities which may be present within the cancer cells. When the abnormalities are blocked, targeted drug treatments will induce the death of the cancer cells.

An example of the targeted drug therapy for glioblastom is bevacizumab (Avastin). It is administered IV and it stops the formation of any blood vessels by cutting off the blood supply to the tumor cells leading to the killing of the tumor cells.

In some cases, speech therapy session can be used in building the parts of the brain that regulate the motor skills, speech, vision and thinking.

Rehabilitation may also be used as part of the recovery such as physical therapy for motor skills or muscles strength, occupational therapy, speech therapy for people with difficulty in speaking, and tutoring for school age children. 

6 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Currently, there has been no alternative remedies for gliomas that has been approved. Complementary treatments only help in the coping with the brain tumor.

There is very little research that has been done on alternative treatment for tumors and more specifically, brain tumors.

More options for the treatment are required to help in the management of the tumors and cancers. Some of the options available include: Acupuncture, hypnosis, meditation, music therapy, relaxation exercises.

7 Risks and Complications

Some of risks for developing glioma include:

  • Age: when one ages, they are increasingly developing the risk of developing brain tumors.

However, gliomas are becoming common among the adults of the age of 60-80 year. It may however occur at any age, for instance, gliomas of ependymomas and pilocytic astrocytomas which are commons in childrens and young adults.

In addition, exposures to ionizing radiations are also at risk of developing gliomas and brain tumors. Common forms of radiations such as use of electromagnetic fields from power lines, radiofrequency and cell phones and microwaves ovens do not increase the risk of gliomas

It is rare for gliomas to run in families. However, a family history of glioma increases the risk for developing glioma.

Recent findings show a weak link between genetic variations and brain tumor.

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