Glioma or glial tumor is a general term used to refer to benign or malignant brain tumors arising from supporting tissue or glia cells. These are rare tumors which have a variable prognosis, mainly related to the size and location of the cancer. Normally, the tumor is called glioma because it results in glial cells. The most common site of glioma is the brain. Regardless of the site affected, high grade gliomas almost always grow back even after full surgical removal. On the other hand, gliomas diagnosed at early stage and well-treated develop slowly, often over many years, and can be monitored without further treatment unless they grow and cause symptoms.
Glioma Incidence and Causes
Glioma is rare but represents about half of the primary brain tumors. Glioblastoma is the most common form of brain tumors. Their incidence is approximately 5 cases per 100 000 inhabitants. The peak frequency is between 50 and 60. These tumors are the third leading cause of death among young adults. In children, it is the second most common cancer after leukemia.
It is not known what causes primary glioma. It seems that some tumors are hereditary and that people inherit certain genes are more susceptible to a brain tumor. Environmental factors such as food, radiation or chemicals can cause these changes in genes.
Although suspected, the role of electromagnetic fields caused by the use of mobile phones is not clear; that of ionizing radiation is better established. The main risk is cerebral radiotherapy and imaging (CT scan) which are suspected in inducing a very small increase in risk of developing a brain tumor.
There are genetic factors as well. These tumors can be part of some rare genetic diseases such as neurofibromatosis type I or type II, but these situations are rare. Apart from these syndromes, genetic susceptibility found includes mutations in genes CDKN2B (cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2B), TERT (telomerase reverse transcriptase), and CCDC26 (coiled-coil domain containing 26). Malignant gliomas are more frequent in men than in women.
Glioma Symptoms and Complications
Glioma Symptoms are divers. A person who contracted a brain tumor may experience different signs and symptoms. By increasing the volume, the tumor exerts pressure on the brain and its tissues. This pressure may change the blood circulation and cause damage to the brain cells or cause swelling of the brain.
Among the common symptoms of brain tumors include headaches and seizures. Other signs and symptoms, such as loss of speech or vision are possible and depend on the location of the tumor.
Headache may be throbbing and cause nausea, vomiting or vision problems. Headaches may intensify with increasing tumor volume. Physical exertion can also intensify the pain. Partial or generalized seizures can be triggered by the swelling or reduction of tumor volume.
If the tumor is located in the spinal cord, symptoms may include:
- erectile dysfunction;
- numbness or tingling;
- perceived weakness in the limbs or upper trunk;
- inability to feel temperature changes;
- loss of muscle control;
- loss of control over bowel or urethral sphincter
- Pain in the arms, neck, back or legs caused by tumors in the cervical region of the spinal cord;
- Chest pain maybe caused by the presence of tumor in the thoracic region of the spinal cord; the pain may increase with coughing, sneezing or lying position.
Glioma Survival Rate and Stage
Prognostic factors are highly discriminating; the two-year survival is correlated with histology, age, quality and condition of the patient. Survival rates are average values that should be read cautiously in each case.Some recent treatments seem to improve the survival rates. And remember, the patient plays a major role in his survival. It is common to find people who become cancer free after they were sent home to die with terminal cancer. The same, some people die of cancer while they were given good prognosis.
Glioma Treatment and Prevention
People with glioma often receive combination therapy of different kinds to have better chances of recovery.The combination often includes chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. Other drugs such as anticonvulsants can help reduce the risk of seizures, and corticosteroids to reduce swelling around the brain tumor.
Chemotherapy, which uses a combination of potent drugs, helps kill or damage the cancer cells.Unfortunately, chemotherapy drugs also affect healthy cells in the body, which can lead to side effects such as hair loss and vomiting (please see chemotherapy side effects).
In glioma treatment, Surgery is recommended, in most cases, to remove the tumor. The surgeon may decide to remove a portion of the tumor according to its location. If the tumor is located near or on the brainstem, the surgical intervention may be more difficult. It is also possible to perform a surgical procedure to reduce the pressure inside the brain.
Radiation therapy uses x-rays to kill cancer cells in the tumor. Radiation can damage healthy tissue around the tumor, but doctors try to limit the damage as much as possible. It usually causes fewer side effects than chemotherapy. It is possible to use radiation only at the beginning or after surgery if there is recurrence.
Some people also choose to enroll in clinical trials or follow complementary or alternative medicine: Medicinal herbs, reflexology, acupuncture or Chinese medicine. Ask your doctor about what clinical trials are likely to suit your treatment and what additional treatments are available. Generally, people choose complementary or alternative medicine at the same time as they are taking the treatment recommended by their physician. Certain alternative medicines, Cannabis Oil for instance, are not recommended to be taken along with chemotherapy or radiation.
To reduce your risk of various forms of cancer, including glioma, you need to make certain healthy choices every day:
- quit smoking;
- maintain a healthy weight;
- Limit your alcohol consumption;
- minimize your exposure to chemicals
- Handle chemicals carefully according to the instructions;
- Perform regular exercise;
- reduce your exposure to harmful rays of the sun and tanning beds ;
follow a healthy diet.