Gliomas can be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign) tumors. Although the true origin of gliomas remains elusive, it is currently believed that these tumors originate from the supporting cells (glial cells) in the brain itself. Glial cells support neurons with nutrients and oxygen. Several different types of gliomas exist, including astrocytomas, ependymomas, glioblastomas, oligoastrocytomas and oligodendrogliomas.
Glioma treatment is dependent on a few important variables, including a patient’s age, tumor grade (benign versus malignant), tumor size and location, to name a few. Surgery is often the initial treatment, followed by a combination of radiation, radiosurgery (such as Gamma Knife treatment) and/or chemotherapy, depending on the diagnosis.
There are no rules when it comes to gliomas, so identifying people at an increased risk of developing a glioma has been difficult. One observation that seems to be constant is that as a person ages, the risk of developing a glioma increases. Benign gliomas tend to occur in younger patients.
Symptoms depend on the tumor type and what part of the brain it affects. However, people with gliomas may experience:
A focused neurological examination will often detect a problem that leads a physician to order either a computed tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. One of these two tests is often enough to indicate that a patient has a glioma. In general, an MRI scan with and without intravenous contrast dye is the best imaging modality for detecting glioma. The gold standard in glioma diagnosis requires, at a minimum, a biopsy of the lesion in question. Unfortunately, a less invasive test does not exist to make a definitive diagnosis of a glioma.
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