A glioma is a tumor of the glial cells that typically develops in the brain and sometimes grows in the spine. It is a common form of brain cancer and includes gliomas of the optic nerve, the brain stem, and other types. The best glioma treatment depends on the specific characteristics of the tumor and its location. Glioma treatment may include a biopsy, surgical removal of a tumor, and noninvasive forms of treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Physicians typically conduct a thorough medical examination, including appropriate tests, in order to come up with a recommended glioma treatment plan that is most likely to be successful for an individual patient.
Optic gliomas are tumors that develop in an optic nerve and are generally more likely to occur in children. Visual problems such as rapid eye movements, double vision, and vision loss can develop with an optic glioma, as can hormonal disorders. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is commonly used to identify brain tumors such as an optic glioma. Surgery may be used to remove an optic glioma if its location is not difficult to reach. A patient may also receive one or more chemotherapy drugs as an additional glioma treatment in order to kill as many remaining cancer cells as possible.
Glioma of the brain stem is usually more likely to occur in an adult than in a child. This form of glioma may cause a blockage of spinal fluid, and may also result in swallowing difficulties, paralysis, speech problems, and double vision. Physicians often use an MRI as well as a computerized tomography (CT) scan to help them identify brain stem gliomas. In some cases, this type of tumor can only be reached to perform a biopsy, and the entire tumor may not be surgically removed when it is in a difficult or dangerous location. Radiation therapy may be added to a patient's brain stem glioma treatment plan to help eliminate cancer tumor cells that cannot be removed with surgery.
An astrocytoma is a common type of glioma that can grow in a type of glial cell known as an astrocyte. Patients with astrocytomas may experience seizures or headaches as well as weakness, paralysis, and other symptoms that can be similar to those of a stroke. Most astrocytomas cannot be successfully treated with surgery alone. In many instances, a physician prescribes a course of radiation therapy after astrocytoma surgery to shrink and kill the remaining tumor cells. This course of treatment may also include chemotherapy.
Other forms of gliomas include ependymomas and oligodendrogliomas. An edendymoma affects the cells in the spinal fluid spaces around a patient's brain and is more likely to occur in children. Ependymomas commonly cause balance problems, headaches, or nausea and are typically treated with surgical removal of the tumor. Oligodendrogliomas occur in brain cells known as oligodendrocytes and usually occur in adults. Seizures are a common symptom of oligodendrogliomas, and these tumors are often treated with a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.