Gliomas are tumors of the brain tissue, which may vary widely in aggressiveness. Since gliomas arise from the brain tissue itself, they can cause a number of symptoms, ranging from simple headache to seizures, movement disorders, confusion, sleepiness, speech disorders, and coordination difficulties. There are multiple subtypes of gliomas, many of which are listed in the diagnosis section. Some of these tumors are diagnosed based on brain biopsy alone, while others are diagnosed and treated via removal, either through a standard approach or using minimally invasive surgery, such as Neuroendoport® Surgery. In addition, each of these tumors is usually treated with additional therapies following diagnosis and surgery, including chemotherapy (anti-tumoral medicines) and radiation therapy.
When possible, the preferred surgical treatment at UPMC for gliomas is Neuroendoport® Surgery, which provides access to the tumor through a dime-size channel. This minimally invasive approach offers the benefits of minimal scarring, fewer side effects and complications, and faster recovery times.
Like most brain tumors, gliomas are initially diagnosed through imaging studies such as MRI or CT scans. A biopsy will confirm the diagnosis.
Common subtypes of gliomas include:
Your physician also will ask you about your symptoms. These may include:
- nausea or vomiting
- weakness or loss of sensation in the arms and/or legs
- speech, vision, or memory problems
- personality changes
Various methods may be used to treat gliomas. These treatments may be used together or individually.
Neuroendoport® Surgery offers a minimally invasive option for deep-seated tumors within the substance of the brain or within the ventricles (fluid spaces). A narrow tube or port allows doctors to access tumors such as gliomas or brain metastases through a tiny incision in the scalp, in contrast to conventional brain surgery.
At UPMC, we take a 360° Approach to treatment when evaluating each patient—looking at their conditions from every direction—to find the path that is least disruptive to the patient's brain, critical nerves, and ability to return to normal functioning. Our neurosurgical team may recommend a combination of surgical and non-surgical approaches to maximize the benefits of surgery while minimizing risks.
Radiation is commonly used to treat brain tumors, either alone or in combination with surgery and/or chemotherapy. Radiation therapy may be delivered externally by directing radiation at the tumor from an outside source, internally by placing radioactive material directly in the body near the cancer, or using stereotactic radiosurgery to deliver a concentrated dose of radiation directly to the brain tumor.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells. Depending on the type and stage of the cancer, chemotherapy may be taken by mouth, as an injection, or placed directly into the brain tumor site.