What is a Low-Grade Glioma?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 22 April 2019
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A low-grade glioma is a type of tumor in the brain that develops from glial cells, most commonly astrocytes. This type of cancer can be seen in people of all ages and is a common form of childhood brain cancer. Prognosis for patients with low-grade glioma varies, depending on the size and location of the tumor, but is generally good with appropriate treatment. Treatment includes management of symptoms, along with tumor removal.

This is an example of a primary brain tumor, a tumor arising in the brain rather than originating elsewhere in the body. Low-grade gliomas do not spread beyond the brain, instead remaining localized. They can cause symptoms like seizures, visual disturbances, and nausea. Patients with these symptoms can be given medical imaging studies to identify growths and other abnormalities in the brain, and these will reveal the presence of a low-grade glioma.

Treatment is twofold. If patients have symptoms, the symptoms are managed with the assistance of a neurologist. A shunt may be implanted to relieve pressure on the brain if fluid is building up around the glioma, and medications can be provided to help with seizures. Surgery is usually recommended to remove the tumor, as gliomas grow slowly, but they do grow, and over time they can transition into more aggressive and problematic tumors if they are left to their own devices.


Sometimes, surgery alone is used for low-grade glioma treatment. In other cases, chemotherapy and radiation may be recommended. These treatments will attack any remaining cancer cells in the body, preventing the spread or recurrence of the cancer and extending the patient's lifespan. Survival rates with low-grade glioma vary considerably, but can be as high as 85% in the first five years after diagnosis when the cancer is caught early and treated appropriately.

People undergoing diagnosis and treatment for cancer may want to consider asking for a second opinion from another medical practitioner. Individual doctors may have differing experiences or preferred treatment protocol, and having information about as many options as possible is helpful for patients making an informed choice about medical treatment. When treatments are recommended, patients should ask why, what the alternatives are, and what the prognosis is with a given treatment versus no treatment or another treatment. Doctors should provide their patients with detailed and comprehensive information to help them learn more about all the options available.



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