Glioma is one of the most common types of primary brain tumour wherein the proliferation of cancer cells usually happens in the brain and spinal cord. The malignancy chiefly stems from the glial cells (gluey supportive cells) that usually surround the nerve cells and facilitate proper functioning. Glioma is also known as an intra-axial brain tumor as it grows to be both within the normal brain tissue and the substance of the brain. Depending upon the rate of growth and site of origination, gliomas can be life-threatening and affect the proper functioning of the brain.
Glioma is actually an umbrella term which includes different types of tumour depending upon their structure, genetic features and the exact type of glial cells involved. These include:
Based on the location, Glioma is classified into 4 types:
- Mixed Gliomas
- Brainstem Glioma
- Optic Pathway Gliomas
Based on the structure of the tumor, glioma is further categorized into 2 types:
- Focal Tumor
- Diffuse Tumor
Just like any other form of cancer, the exact cause of glioma is yet unknown, but several research and studies suggest that it usually forms when the glial cells in the brain and spinal cord have an abnormal growth spurt leading to rise of abnormally shaped cells that do not die and keep accumulating to form tumour-like structures. Although glioblastomas usually happen in the brain and spinal cord but in some cases, it can spread to other parts of the body.
Certain causative factors that increase the risk of glioma includes:
Age: Although it can occur at any age, it is more common in older people than younger individuals.
Gender: Men are more prone to glioma than women.
Exposure To Radiation: Getting exposed to radiation or radiation therapy for a separate form of cancer in the past increases the risk of developing glioma.
Family History: Having a family history of glioma or other forms of brain cancer aggravates the risk of developing glioma.
Hereditary Syndromes: Genetic conditions like Turcot syndrome, Lynch syndrome, Cowden syndrome, makes a person more prone to glioma.
The signs and symptoms of glioma generally depend on the type of glial cell involved, their size and the rate of growth. The chief signs and symptoms include:
- Constant headaches
- Memory loss
- Nausea or vomiting
- Trouble in speaking
- Changes in mood or personality
- Neck pain
- General debility
- Difficulty with balance
- Urinary incontinence
- Vision problems, such as blurred vision, double vision or loss of peripheral vision
Diagnosis And Treatment
On noticing any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms, consult a doctor at once to start the treatment at the earliest. The specialized doctor or neurologist usually does a thorough physical check-up, acknowledges the patient’s family history and past medical history and does a series of diagnostics which include:
Neurological Exam: The doctor asks the patient to move around to analyses your vision, hearing ability, coordination, balance, strength and reflexes.
Imaging techniques: This includes CT-scan, MRI-scan, PET-scan and Ultrasound to find the exact position of the tumour.
Biopsy: A mass of tissue from the tumorous growth is analyzed to determine the types of cells and their level of aggressiveness.
Other blood and urine tests
Treatment options usually include a team of doctors consulting to perform the best possible option to bestow the patient with a normal life. It is usually selected based upon the type, stage of cancer, location of the tumor and other factors like overall health, age, and sensitivity to certain medications. This includes:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted drug therapy
- Clinical trial
- Supportive care