What is a glioma?

Glioma is a term that is used to describe a group of tumors that arise from the glial cells that support the function of the other main brain cell type—the neuron. Gliomas usually happen in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain, the largest, outermost part of the brain that controls many functions that include movement, speech, thinking and emotions. They can also affect the brain stem, the lower part of the brain that controls functions like breathing, blood pressure and the heartbeat, as well as the optic nerves and cerebellum, a part of the brain that deals with balance and other non-thinking functions. Glioma tumors can be benign or malignant.

What causes a glioma?

The exact cause of gliomas are unknown. In a small number of people, genetic disorders like neurofibromatosis or tuberous sclerosis can cause a glioma. Exposure to radiation may also play a factor, but no specific method is known for preventing gliomas or other brain tumors.

What are glioma symptoms?

Glioma symptoms are the same as those of other brain tumors and depend largely on where the tumor is in the brain. Common glioma symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Balance problems, like dizziness and trouble with walking
  • Slurred speech
  • Motor or sensory disorders

What kind of glioma treatment is available?

If you are diagnosed with a glioma, your physician may recommend one of several glioma treatment options:

  • Glioma surgery: If the glioma tumor can be removed without risking neurological damage, your physician may remove a part of your skull, enter your brain and remove as much of the tumor as possible.
  • Radiation therapy: This glioma treatment method is used to destroy any microscopic tumor cells that remain after surgery. Radiation can also be used to treat the tumor and relieve your glioma symptoms.
  • Chemotherapy: This involves the use of medications that stop the growth of abnormal cells and may also be used for glioma treatment.
  • Some gliomas can be hard to treat, so if you or a family member has been diagnosed with a glioma, you may want to ask your physician if there are clinical trials that can be considered.