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Oligodendroglioma Diagnosis and Treatment

Serene lake surrounded by pine trees.OLIGODENDROGLIOMA IS A RARE TUMOR, accounting for nearly three percent of all brain tumors in adults. The tumor begins in certain types of glial cells called oligodendrocytes. The oligodendrocytes produce myelin which is a protein that protects and aids axons in their transmission of neuronal impulses throughout the brain. An Oligodendroglioma tumor can develop in either the temporal or frontal lobe of the brain as well as within the spinal cord. The effective treatments for an oligodendroglioma involves both surgical procedures and nonsurgical treatments.  Depending on the location, size, and grade of the tumor minimally invasive surgery by the skilled professionals at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics of New Jersey provide a rapid recovery.

Types of Oligodendroglioma

Oligodendroglioma tumors are usually categorized into two Grades depending on how fast the tumor grows:

  • Grade II (slow-growing): Grade II oligodendroglioma are benign tumors that grow slowly. Typically, these tumors can be present in the brain for several years without causing any symptoms.
  • Grade III (fast-growing and malignant): Grade III oligodendroglioma are malignant tumors that grow and spread quickly to other areas of the central nervous system.

There are several types of oligodendrogliomas, including optic nerve glioma, anaplastic astrocytoma, anaplastic oligodendrogliomas, and anaplastic mixed glioma. 

Causes and Risk Factors of Oligodendroglioma

Scientists have yet to determine what causes an oligodendroglioma to form and exactly what genetic mutation increases the likelihood.  Scientists and doctors study cases to learn the triggering factors that cause these cells to grow uncontrollably and form tumors with the goal to learn the chromosome abnormalities that cause the tumor.

Some of the risk factors identified in the development of an oligodendroglioma include:

  • Age: The risk of developing the tumor increases with age. An oligodendroglioma is more common in adults aged 40 to 60 years old. However, it can occur in any age.
  • Exposure to radiation: People exposed to ionizing radiation have an increased risk of tumors. Nearly 1% of brain tumors are thought to be caused by ionizing radiation. Examples of ionizing radiation include X-rays and gamma rays, including those used in X-rays, CT scans, or radiotherapy. The risk of developing brain cancer increases in  patients who have had radiotherapy to the head as a child, particularly before age five.
  • Family history: Although it is rare for the oligodendroglioma to run in families, having a family history of the tumor may double the risk for family members. Some genes have been associated with the tumor, but more studies are being carried out to establish the link between genetic variations and any form of brain cancer.

What Are the Symptoms of Oligodendroglioma?

The signs and symptoms of oligodendroglioma can vary depending on the location of the tumor and its size. It is not unusual for some people with a tumor to present no symptoms. However, symptoms occur when the tumor grows and presses the surrounding nerves. Typical symptoms of oligodendroglioma include:

  • Memory problems
  • Numbness
  • Seizures
  • Language difficulty
  • Headaches
  • Balance and movement problems, behavior and personality changes
  • Weakness on one side of the body

How Is Oligodendroglioma Diagnosed?

Doctors use multiple tests to confirm a diagnosis of the tumor. These tests include:

  • Neurological exam: During a neurological exam, the doctor assesses symptoms and signs by checking vision, hearing, coordination, balance, strength, and reflexes. Any issue in one or more of these areas offers clues on the part of the brain affected by the tumor.
  • Imaging tests: If after the neurological examination there is a cause for concern, an imaging test will be necessary to reveal whether there is a brain tumor. This diagnostic image will help the physician confirm whether there is a tumor or structure abnormality. It will also pinpoint the exact location and size of any brain tumor, but it will not confirm the type of brain tumor. Standard MRI may be combined with specialized MTI imaging such as magnetic resonance spectroscopy and functional MRI to diagnose oligodendroglioma.
  • Biopsy: If a tumor is revealed, a biopsy involves the removal of sample tissue from the brain and will be necessary to analyze the types of tumor cells and their level of aggressiveness. A biopsy can be done before surgery or during surgery, depending on your specific situation and the brain tumor’s location. If it is small or in a high-risk location, a biopsy would provide the intel to determine whether the tumor will respond to radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy without the need for a high-risk brain surgery.

What Are the Treatments for Oligodendroglioma?

The specific treatments for oligodendroglioma depend on the grade of the tumor, its size, and location. Typical oligodendroglioma treatment options include:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor: During the surgery, a neurosurgeon uses specialized surgical techniques to remove as much of the tumor as possible without affecting healthy brain tissues. A specialized surgical technique called minimally invasive brain surgery , endoscopic  brain surgery or awake surgery can be used to ensure no sensitive brain tissue is damaged during the procedure. The doctors can recommend additional treatments after the surgery to lower their risk of the tumor recurring.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy treatment involves administering drugs that will destroy cancer cells. The chemo drugs can be taken either as pills or administered intravenously. Sometimes chemotherapy is used after surgery remove any cancerous cells that might remain. Chemotherapy can also be combined with radiation therapy for aggressive cancers.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy can be used as a primary treatment for people who cannot undergo surgery. Radiation therapy leverages high-energy beams like X-rays or protons to kill cancerous cells. A patient lies on a table during the procedure, so a machine moves around them while directing beams to precise locations in their brains. Radiation therapy can be used after surgery or combined with chemotherapy.
  • Clinical trials: Clinical trials are usually recommended only if all evidenced based treatments have been tried and failed. These trials give patients opportunities to try the latest treatment options that are still under study but not yet proven to be more effective than the most current proven treatments.

Is Oligodendroglioma Preventable?

It is not possible to prevent oligodendroglioma. However, the risk can be reduced by doing the following:

  • Limit exposure to radiation from X-rays
  • Get regular medical checkups and screening and report any new symptoms
  • Avoid exposure to pesticides and insecticides

Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine, & Orthopedics Can Help

If you or a loved one have any neurological changes, symptoms, or has been diagnosed with a brain tumor or spine tumor, the dedicated team at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics in New Jersey can help. It may or may not be an oligodendroglioma, but the CNSO team can diagnose what is causing your symptoms. We also understand how any brain tumor concern, including the diagnosis of oligodendroglioma, can impact your life. We are committed to providing specialized medical treatment and care designed to provide immediate relief from your neurological symptoms. We have multiple convenient locations for treatment covering several counties, including Passaic County and Morris County, as well as other neighboring towns such as Clifton, Jersey City, and Parsippany, NJ. Learn more about a brain tumor, an oligodendroglioma, or other causes of your symptoms and the treatment options by contacting the doctors at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine, & Orthopedics today.


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