Gliomas are the most common type of primary brain tumor. They can occur at any age and in any part of the brain or spinal cord where glial cells (the support cells of the nervous system) are located. There are 3 major types of gliomas: astrocytomas, ependymomas and oligodendrogliomas. Astrocytomas are defined by their histological grade from low grade to high grade. The most common type of glioma is the high grade glioblastoma multiforme which is rapidly growing and generally carries a poor prognosis. Lower grade astrocytomas (grades 1 and 2 and pilocytic astrocytomas) are generally slow growing and carry a better prognosis.
Symptoms from a glioma are variable and depend on tumor location and size; common complaints include headache, seizures, confusion, weakness, numbness, imbalance or in-coordination and personality changes.
The diagnosis of a glioma is typically made by a brain MRI with and without contrast (gadolinium). Magnetic resonance spectroscopy may also be used to better define the nature of the tumor.
Because gliomas are infiltrative into the brain and blend into the adjacent normal brain, they typically cannot be removed completely. Consequently treatment of gliomas may involve surgical debulking through a Craniotomy, radiosurgery (SRS) or whole brain radiotherapy plus chemotherapy. In many instances, all 3 of these treatments are needed. For most patients with a glioblastoma multiforme, surgical debulking, whole brain radiotherapy and temazolamide chemotherapy is considered standard treatment. Although the average survival of a patient with a glioblastoma is typically under 2 years, new treatments are continually being developed.