Glioma is a type of brain tumor that affects the central nervous system. These tumors originate in the glial cells of the brain and the spinal cord and are the most common type of primary tumors. These tumors affect the normal functioning of the brain and may prove fatal in certain cases.
Glioma occurs due to affected glial cells that are found in abundance in the central nervous system. These cells provide support and insulation to the neurons thereby providing transmission of nerve impulses to the brain.
Depending on the type of glial cell and the origin of tumour cells, glioma can be classified into:
- Oligodendrocytes- These include gliomas such as anaplastic oligoastrocytoma, oligodendroglioma and anaplastic oligodendroglioma.
- Ependymal cells- These include gliomas such as subependymoma, myxopapillary ependymoma and anaplastic ependymoma.
- Astrocytes- These include gliomas such as astrocytoma, glioblastoma and anaplastic astrocytoma.
The type and the origin of glioma determine the mode of treatment and the scope of recovery from the condition.
Gliomas affect the transmission of nerve impulses in the brain and may produce symptoms that affect the normal functioning of the body.
The common symptoms of gliomas include:
- Changes in behavioral pattern
- Decreased brain functions
- Difficulty in maintaining balance and coordination
- Severe headache
- Hearing impairment
- Loss of sensation of the hands and feet
- Memory loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Reduced movement of the hands and feet
- Speech impairment
- Urinary incontinence
- Visual disturbances and impairment
The exact cause of gliomas is not known. However, certain factors such as an inherited gene, genetic mutation, environmental factors and physiological factors are known to cause gliomas.
The risk of factors of gliomas include
- Age: The risk of developing glioma increases with age. It is widely prevalent among people above 60 years of age. However, certain types of tumors such as ependymomas and astrocytomas are widely prevalent among children and young adults.
- Exposure to radiations: A frequent exposure to radiation such as diagnostic radiations and ionizing radiation from a cellphone, microwave oven and power lines increase the risk of developing gliomas.
- Inherited gene: A family history of gliomas may increase the risk of developing tumor. However, genetically inheriting the gene is rarely observed.
The symptoms produced may provide scope for the diagnosis of glioma. Glioma is detected by the following diagnostic procedures:
- Neurological examination: Monitoring the coordination, movements, vision, speech and muscle reflexes provides major scope for the detection of the affected part of the brain.
- Brain scan: Image scans such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and computed tomography (CT) scan helps in detection of gliomas. In certain cases, radioactive dye is injected into the veins that impart color to the brain cells enabling visibility of the tumors.
- Biopsy test: The test is performed by inserting a thin needle into the skull for the collection of the tumor cell. This test helps in differentiating cancerous tumors from non-cancerous tumors.
- Laboratory testing: Blood samples are collected for monitoring the complete blood count (CBC) and serum electrolytes for the detection of any underlying cause of glioma.
The type of tumour, size, location and the severity of the condition determines the mode of treatment to be followed.
- Chemotherapy: These drugs are administered intravenously or orally to prevent the growth and spread of tumor cells. The duration and the dose of the drug depend on the type of tumor cells. In certain cases, chemotherapy in combination with radiation therapy is used to treat glioma.
- Radiation therapy: The use of high-intensity radiations causes shrinkage and death of the tumor cells, this leads to the death of tumor cells. Radiation therapy in combination with chemotherapy is used for the treatment of certain types of tumors.
- Surgery: The size and location of the tumour determine the complexity of the surgery. The tumors that are accessible can be removed easily while tumors lying in the deeper layer of the brain have greater risk. Thus, only a part of the tumor is removed from tumors lying in the deeper layer of the brain to prevent the risk of brain damage.
The use of other medicines such as analgesics, antiepileptic drugs and steroid is administered to treat and relieve pain, seizures and inflammation respectively.
Management and support
Early detection and diagnosis of the symptoms provide scope for treatment and cure of gliomas. Managing the symptoms and complications help in minimizing the risk of damage to the brain and other body parts.
Special care and support should be provided during and after the treatment of glioma to prevent the risk of post-surgical bleeding and other complications. Care should be taken to maintain intracranial pressure during and after brain surgery.
Seeking additional speech and physical therapies helps in regaining speech and motor movements. This enables better rehabilitation and improves speech, coordination and balance.
Regular follow-up sessions and the use of medication helps the patient in recovering faster from the symptoms of gliomas.