Arising from neuroglial cells—the main cells in the brain that can develop tumors—gliomas are tumors affecting the supportive cells of the brain. Typically the chances of developing a gliomas increases as we age, with those between 75 and 84 most at risk. Less serious forms of the tumors can develop in children, and they affect males more often than females.
Gliomas are categorized into four types: Astrocytomas that affect the star-shaped cells in the tissues around the brain and spinal cord; ependymomas that impact the cells along central nervous system; oligodendrogliomas that affect the cells around axons in the central nervous system; and mixed gliomas.
The origins of these types of tumors are not completely known to physicians, but a genetic component is strongly suspected. Excessive exposure of the brain to radiation can also be a cause.
Depending on the location and size of the tumor, symptoms of gliomas are variable but are similar to those experienced with other types of brain tumors. Headaches, vision problems, vomiting, a loss of hunger and muscle control and seizures are common, as are changes in mood, behavior, cognitive abilities and problems with memory and speech. And as the glioma develops and deteriorates more and more brain cells, symptoms usually worsen.
When a physician suspects that a glioma is present, a diagnosis will be confirmed with a CT scan or MRI, both of which, when used together, can determine the makeup of the tumor as well as its location, size etc. A biopsy will also be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatments vary depending on the severity of gliomas, its location and the rate at which it is growing and developing. A combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy is usually employed: surgery specifically concentrates on removing the tumor and affected cells, although gliomas typically have spread once treatment begins; radiation focuses on shrinking the gliomas-affected cells and slowing or stopping their growth; and chemotherapy uses drugs to kill the same affected cells.