Glioma is a type of tumor that occurs in the brain and spinal cord. Gliomas are one of the most common types of primary brain tumors. They begin in the gluey supportive cells (glial cells) that surround nerve cells and help them function. A glioma can affect your brain function and be life-threatening depending on its location and rate of growth.

Gliomas are classified according to the type of glial cell involved in the tumor, as well as the tumor's genetic features, which can help predict how the tumor will behave over time and the treatments most likely to work.

Types of glioma include:
  • Astrocytomas, including astrocytoma, anaplastic astrocytoma and glioblastoma
  • Ependymomas, including anaplastic ependymoma, myxopapillary ependymoma and subependymoma
  • Oligodendrogliomas, including oligodendroglioma, anaplastic oligodendroglioma and anaplastic oligoastrocytoma
  • Brain stem gliomas, including several types of astrocytoma and ganglioglioma

What Causes a Glioma?

The exact cause of gliomas is not known, but there are some factors that may increase your risk of a brain tumor. These include: 

  • Your age – Your risk of a brain tumor increases as you age. Gliomas are most common in adults between ages 45 and 65 years old.
  • Exposure to radiation – People who have been exposed to a type of radiation called ionizing radiation have an increased risk of brain tumor.
  • Family history of glioma – While it's rare for glioma to run in families, having a family history of glioma can double the risk of developing it.

What Are the Symptoms of a Glioma?

The symptoms of glioma vary depending on the type of tumor, it’s size, location and rate of growth. With that said, common signs and symptoms of gliomas include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion or a decline in brain function
  • Memory loss
  • Personality changes or irritability
  • Vision problems, such as blurred vision, double vision or loss of peripheral vision
  • Difficulty with balance
  • Seizures, especially in someone without a history of seizure
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Speech difficulties

How Is a Glioma Diagnosed?

If you experience any of these symptoms or your doctor suspects that you may have a glioma, you may be referred to specialists trained in treating brain and nervous system disorders—like the ones at Tampa General Hospital. Our neuro-oncology team can perform various tests, including:

  • A neurological exam
  • Imaging tests such as MRIs, CT scans and PETs
  • A biopsy

How Is a Glioma Treated?

There are various treatment options for glioma depending on the type, size, grade and location of the tumor, as well as factors such as your age and overall health.

Common methods of treatment include:

  • Surgery, such as skull base surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted drug therapy

In addition to treatment for the tumor itself, you have also be prescribed drugs to reduce the signs and symptoms of your tumor. For example, anti-epileptic drugs may be used to control seizures.