Low-grade glioma is a type of brain cancer that forms in the brain itself. A low-grade glioma is classified as a World Health Organization grade 2 tumor and is the slowest-growing type of glioma in adults. If a low-grade glioma progresses to the point that it presses on surrounding healthy brain tissue, symptoms may develop. Low-grade glioma symptoms can vary from patient to patient based on where in the brain the tumor is located.
Seizures are the most common symptom of a low-grade glioma and can range in severity. Some seizures may be so mild that a person does not realize he or she is having one. Oftentimes, the only signs of a mild seizure are brief, unexplained dizzy spells, unusual smells or a strange feeling in the stomach. Other people may have more severe seizures that cause uncontrollable shaking.
Other low-grade glioma symptoms
Additional low-grade glioma symptoms can affect speech, vision and motor functions. Common signs of a low-grade glioma include:
- Personality changes
- Difficulty walking
- Physical weakness, especially on one side of the body
- A restricted field of vision
- Difficulty speaking
The symptoms a patient experiences depend on where in the brain the tumor is located. Different areas of the brain control different bodily functions, such as speech, vision, movement, memory and more. So, a glioma that is growing on an optic nerve will present with much different symptoms than one developing in an area of the brain that controls movement.
What is a glioma?
Gliomas form in the glial cells, which are non-neuronal cells in the central and peripheral nervous systems that provide support and protection for neurons in the brain. Able to develop in any part of the spinal cord or brain, gliomas can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Gliomas are more often malignant than benign.
There are five primary types of gliomas:
- Astrocytomas – These tumors develop in the astrocytes, a type of cell within the central nervous system, and can grow very slowly or aggressively.
- Brain stem gliomas – Most common in children, brain stem gliomas develop in the central nervous system and are typically not discovered until they have spread to other parts of the brain.
- Ependymomas – A rare type of glioma, ependymomas are found in the ependymal cells that line the ventricles (fluid-filled spaces) of the brain and the spinal canal. They are more prevalent in children than adults.
- Oligodendrogliomas – These uncommon tumors grow in the oligodendrocytes (supportive tissue cells) of the brain. They have the most favorable outcomes of any type of glioma.
- Optic pathway gliomas – A slow-growing tumor, an optic pathway glioma develops in or around the optic nerve and can cause vision problems.
Low-grade vs. high-grade glioma
Malignant gliomas can be classified into four distinct grades. Grades 1 and 2 are considered low-grade, which means they grow very slowly and can be more effectively treated. Grades 3 and 4 are considered high-grade, which means they grow more aggressively and have a less favorable prognosis. Left untreated, low-grade gliomas can turn into high-grade gliomas.
What to do if you have low-grade glioma symptoms
If you have symptoms of a low-grade glioma, promptly contact a physician who can evaluate your condition and provide you with an accurate diagnosis. Moffitt Cancer Center is a high-volume cancer center, and the experts in our Neuro-Oncology Program regularly diagnose and treat patients with all forms of brain cancer, including low-grade gliomas. We offer a number of tests to provide our patients with an accurate diagnosis, and if a low-grade glioma is found, our multispecialty team will develop an individualized treatment plan to help ensure the best possible outcome and quality of life.
Treatment for low-grade gliomas typically involves surgery. Most low-grade gliomas can be fully removed, as they are often small and easy to detach without affecting surrounding brain tissue. If only a portion of the tumor can be removed, follow-up treatment—such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy or targeted therapy—may be the recommended course of action.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of a low-grade glioma and would like to consult with Moffitt Cancer Center, contact us today by calling 1-888-663-3488 or submitting a new patient registration form online. We provide every new patient with rapid access to a cancer expert.