What Is It?

Oligodendroglioma is a brain tumor that arises from a type of glial cell in the brain itself, called an oligodendrocyte. Oligodendrocytes are cells that help to insulate the long processes of nerve cells in the central nervous system. This insulation helps electrical impulses move quickly down the nerve cell. These cells are part of a class of cells known as glial cells, including astrocytes, ependymal cells and microglia. These cells can all be thought of as "helper" cells that help the nerve cells function properly and optimally. For this reason, oligos are considered part of the glioma family of brain tumors.

Like other gliomas, oligodendrogliomas can vary in aggressiveness and are graded from I to IV from more benign to more malignant. Like astrocytomas, over time some oligo's can become more malignant. If these tumors get to grade IV, like astrocytomas, they can be considered glioblastoma multiforme.

The cause of these tumors is unknown. They can occur in many areas of the brain but most commonly in the frontal and temporal lobes. They are very uncommon in the spinal cord. They largely occur in adults with only a small percentage found in children.

What Types of Symptoms Are Typical?

Seizures is a common presenting symptom of oligodendroglioma. However, depending on their location, many different neurological symptoms are possible. As they enlarge, headaches, nausea and vomiting can occur as is common with many types of brain tumors.

How Is The Diagnosis Typically Made?

In addition to a neurological examination, most presenting patients will undergo a CT scan or MRI scan to determine if they have a brain tumor. These tumors can be generally seen on these imaging studies and their size and location can be determined. However, like other tumors, a definitive diagnosis is made only when tumor tissue can be sampled so that a pathologist can determine if it is in fact an oligo and if so, what is its grade.

What Are Some Common Treatments?

Treatment varies considerably but is generally guided by the pathologist. Different tumor types and grades will be approached differently. Some common options include surgery to remove part or all of the tumor, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. The decision about which treatments are most suitable to each patient should be discussed with the patient's treating doctor or doctors.

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Important Note: This site is not intended to offer medical advice. Every patient is different, and only your personal physician can help to counsel you about what is best for your situation. What we offer is general reference information about various disorders and treatments for your education.

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