There are several types of glial cells, each with their own function:
- Astrocytes: transport nutrients and holds the neurons in place
- Oligodendrocytes: provide insulation (myelin) to neurons
- Microglia: digest dead neurons and pathogens
- Ependymal cells: line the ventricles and secrete cerebrospinal fluid
Glioma is the mother term used to describe different types of tumours composed of abnormal glial cells: Astrocytoma,
Oligodendroglioma and Gliobastoma. Gliomas differ in their malignancy; some take longer to grow and can be cured. Others are invasive;
they grow fast, are difficult to manage and likely to recur after treatment.
Glioma symptoms are related to the site of the brain in which they have occurred. Common symptoms are headaches, weakness,
numbness, changes in personality, seizures and bouts of confusion.
If symptoms point to a glioma, the physician works with a team of experts to establish the diagnosis. Specialists will conduct a
neurological examination, which is followed by CT scan and/or MRI scan. These tests are required to determine the size, type, location and stage of the tumour.
The occurrence of glioma may also be confirmed by a biopsy.
Glioma management also depends on the type, size, location and stage of the tumour determined during the diagnosis. Other factors are the
patient’s general health, age and personal choice, if there is any. Common treatment options are:
- Radiation Therapy
- Targeted Drug Therapy
Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, sometimes used in combination would be used to remove the tumour itself.
Targeted drug therapy might be used to alleviate the symptoms of the disease. They doctor may prescribe steroids to lessen the swelling
and reduce the pressure on brain’s affected areas. Anti-epileptic drugs are given in case of seizures.
Surgery is the first choice of treatment to remove the tumour entirely or as much as possible for most gliomas. Some gliomas are small
and easy to break away from the surrounding, healthy tissue, which makes it possible to completely remove the tumour. Some gliomas cannot be separated from
Sometimes their location in sensitive areas of the brain makes the operation risky. In such cases the surgeon will remove as much of the
tumour he safely can. Even clearing away a portion of the glioma can help alleviate mitigating symptoms of the disease.
In some cases, neuro pathologists examine samples of the tissue removed by the surgeon and report the findings during the course of the
operation. The surgeon decides how much tissue to further remove based on this information.
Advances in surgical technologies and techniques help our neurosurgeons in protecting as much of the healthy tissue as possible during
surgery. These include computer-assisted brain surgery, awake brain surgery, intra operative MRI and lasers. For instance, doctors may opt for awake brain
surgery, wherein the patient is conscious and his/her responses to vital regions of the brain are tracked to ensure their stability and functioning throughout
Surgery for glioma removal carries some risks like infection and bleeding. Certain risks are associated with the area of the brain where
the glioma occurs. For example, surgery for a tumour close to nerves connecting to the eyes may carry the risk of sight impairment or vision loss.