Learning About Your Condition
Self-education is an excellent way to reduce some of the stress you may be feeling right now. Finding out you have a brain tumor can be a difficult process, but learning more about your condition and treatment options available in the tri-state area can help you have a sense of control during this time. The information below discusses some of the different glioma types. Whether you are still awaiting diagnosis or already have a treatment plan in place, having a deeper understanding will be useful in future discussions with your doctor.
What is a Glioma?
Glial cells are a group of support cells for the brain. There are different types, each with different characteristics and functions. A glioma is a tumor that arises from one of these glial cells and can be further categorized based on cell type, such as an astrocytoma. Some gliomas can even be a mix of different types of cells.
Much like other tumors, gliomas are classified based on grade, or how aggressive the tumor is. The higher the grade, the more aggressive the tumor. A low-grade glioma is less aggressive and typically grows slowly. However, it may still require treatment because of pressure on adjacent structures. Your doctor will recommend a treatment plan based on your tumor’s grade, as well as its size and location.
Symptoms of a glioma depend on the size and location of your tumor. However, common symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Problems with balance and coordination
- Vision and/or hearing problems
- Difficulty with speech
- Personality changes
- Memory loss
- Declined cognitive function
These symptoms occur in both low- and high-grade gliomas. However, onset and severity may be more extreme with high-grade gliomas as a result of the more aggressive tumor growth.
Different Glioma Types
Your doctor will diagnose your glioma based on your symptoms, diagnostic imaging results and tissue biopsy. While the type of cell making up your glioma is important information, the grade of your glioma will be the deciding factor in the treatment planning process. The differences between low-grade and high-grade gliomas are outlined below, which will be useful as you begin to learn more about your individual condition.
Grade I and II gliomas are typically considered to be low grade. A low-grade glioma is not spreading into other tissues and is growing relatively slowly. However, it is important to understand that any glioma has the potential to transform into a higher grade and become more aggressive. This is one reason your doctor may recommend treatment. Additionally, even a slow-growing glioma can press on adjacent structures, leading to symptoms and damage to delicate tissues.
Treatment options for low-grade gliomas are more conservative than high-grade gliomas. Some patients with very small, asymptomatic tumors may not require treatment right away. However, because a glioma has the potential to transform, it will be important to attend all follow-up appointments to allow your doctor to detect any changes as soon as possible.
If your doctor does recommend treatment, the first step is typically surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. If any tumor cells remain or the tumor returns, radiation therapy can be used to treat remaining tumor cells. Chemotherapy is not typically used to treat low-grade gliomas, but may be used in some cases.
Gliomas classified as grade III and IV are considered high-grade gliomas. These tumors are far more aggressive, with the ability to invade local tissues and spread throughout the body. It is important to work with a specialist in northern NJ who has experience in treating high-grade gliomas to ensure your treatment plan best suits your individual needs.
Treating high-grade glioma requires a multifaceted approach. Surgery is still typically the first step. These tumors can be difficult to remove because of the spread into delicate surrounding tissues. Following surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are used to try to eliminate the remaining tumor cells. Following initial treatment, your doctor will develop a follow-up schedule to monitor for tumor regrowth, which is common in high-grade gliomas.
Speak with Your Personal Doctor
Your doctor will be the best person to help you understand your specific glioma characteristics and treatment options available in the NJ area. Not only are there different glioma types, but also the size and location of your tumor to consider. All these factors, along with individual health history, come into play when determining which treatment is most effective for your condition. Continue to discuss what you have learned here with your personal doctor. He or she will be able to answer any new or lingering questions you may have, setting your mind at ease during this time.