Glioma tumors affect your brain function

In your brain, a type of cell called a glial helps support nerve cells so that your brain can function properly. Glial cells do many things to help your brain work, such as form a protective sheath around your nerve cells, clean dead cells out of your brain and give nutrition to your nerve cells.

Like all cells, glial cells grow and divide. When they divide, each new cell has a copy of the same DNA. Sometimes the DNA copy has an error, which causes the glial cell to grow out of control. When this happens, you develop a type of brain cancer called glioma (cancer of the glial cells).

Glioma can happen in children or adults. Glioma can grow in different parts of the brain, the spine or in the nerve that connects your eyes to your brain (optic nerve). Depending on the type of glioma, it may be hard to treat.

What are the symptoms of glioma?

Glioma symptoms can be startling. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor. Symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Changes in personality
  • Irritability
  • Balance problems
  • Blurred vision, double vision or no peripheral vision
  • Trouble speaking
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting or feeling sick to your stomach
  • Urinary incontinence

These symptoms can also be caused by many other health conditions. Only a doctor can make an accurate diagnosis using imaging technology like computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

How is glioma treated?

Because each glioma can be so different, a team of doctors will develop an individualized treatment plan for you. Your team may include a neurosurgeon, oncologist (cancer doctor) and radiation oncologist.

Usually the first treatment step for glioma is surgery. You may receive surgery quickly after you are diagnosed. A neurosurgeon will try to remove the entire tumor without affecting your brain function. You may be asleep during brain surgery or kept awake.

When you are awake during surgery, you will receive regional anesthesia to numb the area. You won’t feel pain, but you will stay awake so your doctor can make sure you can still talk and move appropriately as he or she performs surgery.

After you heal from surgery, you may have radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles or waves to destroy cancer cells. A special type of radiation therapy called stereotactic radiosurgery is often used for brain cancers. During stereotactic radiosurgery, a high-powered, precisely aimed beam of radiation is targeted to your tumor or where your tumor used to be. This can kill any cancer cells that were left behind after surgery.

Chemotherapy may also be used with or in place of radiation therapy. Chemotherapy uses medicines to kill any remaining cancer cells that are left after surgery.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.