Other Gliomas

Brain Stem Glioma

Characteristics

  • Named for its location at the base of the brain
  • Can range from low grade to high grade
  • Occurs most often in children between three and ten years of age, but can occur in adults

Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Speech or balance abnormalities
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Weakness or numbness of the arms and/or legs
  • Facial weakness
  • Double vision

Symptoms can develop slowly and subtly and may go unnoticed for months. In other cases, the symptoms may arise abruptly. A sudden onset of symptoms tends to occur with rapidly growing, high-grade tumors.

Treatment

Surgery may not be an option because the brain stem controls vital life functions and can easily be damaged. Radiation therapy can reduce symptoms and help slow the tumor’s growth. Low-grade brain stem gliomas can have very long periods of remission.

Ependymoma

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Ependymal tumors begin in the ependyma, cells that line the passageways in the brain where cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is produced and stored. Ependymomas are classified as either supratentorial (in the cerebral hemispheres) or infratentorial (in the back of the brain). Variations of this tumor type include subependymoma, subependymal giant-cell astrocytoma, and malignant ependymoma. Ependymoblastoma, which occurs in infants and children under three years, is no longer considered a subtype of ependymoma. For ependymoblastoma, see primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET) in the Non-glial Tumors section.

Characteristics

  • Usually localized to one area of the brain
  • Develops from cells that line the hollow cavities at the bottom of the brain and the canal containing the spinal cord
  • Can be slow growing or fast growing
  • May be located in the ventricles (cavities in the center of the brain)
  • May block the ventricles, causing hydrocephalus (water on the brain)
  • Sometimes extends to the spinal cord
  • Common in children, and among men and women in their 40s and 50s
  • Occurrence peaks at age five and again at age 34
  • Accounts for two percent of all brain tumors

Symptoms

  • Severe headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty walking
  • Fatigue and sleepiness
  • Problems with coordination
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Visual problems

Treatment

The doctor will perform tests to determine if it has spread to the spinal cord. Surgery followed by radiation therapy is the usual course of treatment. A shunt may be needed to treat hydrocephalus caused by blockage of the ventricles.

Mixed Glioma

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A mixed glioma is often a combination of an astrocytoma and an oligodendroglioma (see oligodendroglioma for more).

Characteristics

  • Composed of two or more types of glioma cells
  • Graded according to the most aggressive type of tumor cells
  • Common among men and women in their 20s-50s
  • Accounts for one percent of all brain tumors

Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Weakness or paralysis
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Visual problems
  • Behavioral and cognitive changes

Treatment

Mixed gliomas are generally treated for the most anaplastic (cancerous) type of cell found in the tumor. For example, in the case of a tumor composed of an anaplastic astrocytoma and a low-grade oligodendroglioma, the treatment would be based on the anaplastic astrocytoma – the more aggressive of the two cell types.

Optic Nerve Glioma

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Characteristics

  • Named for its location on or near the nerve pathways between the eyes and the brain
  • Can range from low grade to high grade
  • Occurs most often in infants and children, but can occur in adults
  • Symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Progressive loss of vision
  • Double vision

Treatment

Surgery is standard treatment, usually followed by radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Chemotherapy may be given to very young children instead of radiation therapy to avoid damage to the developing brain.

Subependymoma

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This tumor forms from ependymal cells, and is a variation of an ependymoma. Ependymal cells are cells line the passageway in the brain where cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) is produced and stored. Ependymal tumors are classified as either supratentorial (in the cerebral hemispheres) or infratentorial (in the back of the brain). See “Ependymoma” for more information.

Characteristics

  • Slow growing
  • Usually located in the fourth and lateral ventricles
  • More common in men than in women

Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Loss of balance
  • Sometimes no symptoms occur and tumor is detected incidentally

Treatment

Surgery will be performed when possible. Radiation therapy may be used if the tumor progresses or recurs. A shunt may be needed to treat hydrocephalus (water on the brain).

Learn more about other tumor types.

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