Brain Stem Gliomas

Gliomas are formations of nerve tissue; they develop from supporting glial tissue and are the most common brain tumors. In most cases, gliomas are not composed of a single type of cell, but several types, but the name is based on the tumor cell type predominant. Gliomas grow by infiltration.
Types of glial tumors are astrocytomas (are most common), ependymoma, medulloblastoma, glioblastoma multiforme. The last two types are growing rapidly in size and often recur after surgical removal. Patients with astrocytomas have a good chance of cure by surgery, but do not respond to radiotherapy. With time glioma calcifications may occur.

These gliomas are localized in the inferior part of the brain, where it is tied to the spinal cord. This part of the brain is responsible for many functions which if not working properly, the patient’s life is in big danger. This diagnosis means that there is a malignant tumor which can spread.

One of the specific features of these gliomas is that they are mostly encountered among very young people (younger than 20 years of age) with the higher frequency between 5 and 10 years old. If occurring in adults, the chances are that it already formed metastases.

The most common symptoms of this disease are:

  • Visual impairment: double vision
  • Swallowing impairment
  • Muscle weakness
  • Inability to walk
  • Acute headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Behavioral and personality chances.

Other symptoms may occur due to the proximity of the tumors to structures responsible for blood pressure control, breathing, motor functions, and others.

The symptoms are relatively aggressive and the patient should immediately see the doctor. A MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan can easily confirm or infirm the presence of the tumor. In most of the cases biopsy is not needed.

As far as treatment is concerned, unlike in case of other tumors, surgical intervention is not often performed. This is due to the localization of the tumor, which makes it very difficult to extract it without affecting other near structures. In most of the cases, the common treatment options are radiotherapy and chemotherapy. However, medical development in microsurgical techniques can be very effective in some of the cases. But unfortunately the chances of healing are not very high. The first step in the treatment is to reduce brain pressure. As mentioned, these types of tumors, which arise from glial brain cells, mostly affect teenagers and children. Both radiation therapy and chemotherapy have side effects on the young patient.

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