By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
A glioma is a type of tumor originating in the brain or spinal cord that arises from glial cells.
The symptoms of glioma depend on the tumor’s size, grade and location. For example, gliomas in the brain can cause various symptoms including nausea, vomiting, headaches, light flashes, seizures, dizziness and fainting spells.
A glioma that presses on the optic nerve may lead to vision loss, while a glioma in the spine may cause pain, weakness, and numbness in parts of the limbs.
Pathology and progression
Gliomas are not spread via the bloodstream but can metastasize via the cerebrospinal fluid and cause lesions in the spine referred to as “drop metstases.”
Most high-grade or more aggressive gliomas have already developed their own blood supply and tend to infiltrate. The tumors can also break down the blood–brain barrier in areas near to the tumor. In adddition, these tumors usually grow back after surgical removal and are often termed recurrent brain cancer.
Low-grade tumors, on the other hand, can take many years to grow back and may not require any follow-up treatment after surgical excision, unless symptoms begin to manifest.
The treatment of these tumors depends, again, on the size, location and grade of the tumor. Often, treatment involves a combination of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Those with high-grade tumors generally have a poor outcome due to the high rates of recurrence.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Jun 24, 2014