Glioma is a type of tumor that occurs in the brain and spinal cord. Gliomas begin in the gluey supportive cells (glial cells) that surround nerve cells and help them function.
Three types of glial cells can produce tumors. 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
A glioma can affect your brain function and be life-threatening depending on its location and rate of growth.
Gliomas are one of the most common types of primary brain tumors.
The type of glioma you have helps determine your treatment and your prognosis. In general, glioma treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and experimental clinical trials.
The symptoms of glioma vary by tumor type as well as the tumor's size, location and rate of growth.
Common signs and symptoms of gliomas include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Confusion or a decline in brain function
- Memory loss
- Personality changes or irritability
- Difficulty with balance
- Urinary incontinence
- Vision problems, such as blurred vision, double vision or loss of peripheral vision
- Speech difficulties
- Seizures, especially in someone without a history of seizures
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs and symptoms common to glioma.
Like most primary brain tumors, the exact cause of gliomas is not known. But there are some factors that may increase your risk of a brain tumor.
Like most primary brain tumors, the exact cause of gliomas is not known. But there are some factors that may increase your risk of a brain tumor. Risk factors 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. However, a brain tumor can occur at any age. Certain types of gliomas, such as ependymomas and pilocytic astrocytomas, are more common in children and young adults.
Exposure to radiation. People who have been exposed to a type of radiation called ionizing radiation have an increased risk of brain tumor. Examples of ionizing radiation include radiation therapy used to treat cancer and radiation exposure caused by atomic bombs.
More-common forms of radiation, such as electromagnetic fields from power lines and radiofrequency radiation from microwave ovens have not been shown to increase the risk of glioma.
It isn't clear whether cellphone use increases the risk of brain cancer. Some studies have found a possible association between cellphone use and a type of brain cancer called acoustic neuroma. Many other studies have found no association. Because cellphones are a relatively new factor, more long-term research is needed to understand the potential impact on cancer risk. For the time being, if you're concerned about the possible link between cellphones and cancer, experts recommend limiting your exposure by using a speaker or hands-free device, which keeps the cellphone itself away from your head.
- Family history of glioma. It's rare for glioma to run in families. But having a family history of glioma can double the risk of developing it. Some genes have been weakly associated with glioma, but more study is needed to confirm a link between these genetic variations and brain tumors.
Glioma care at Mayo Clinic
April 12, 2019
- Winn RH. Radiologic features of central nervous system tumors. In: Youmans and Winn Neurological Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com.
- Wong ET, et al. Overview of the clinical features and diagnosis of brain tumors in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed March 12, 2018.
- Gliomas. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/intracranial-and-spinal-tumors/gliomas. Accessed March 12, 2018.
- Goldman L, et al., eds. Glioma. In: Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 12, 2018.
- Winn RH. Low-grade gliomas: Astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas, and mixed gliomas. In: Youmans and Winn Neurological Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com.
- Overview of intracranial tumors. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/intracranial-and-spinal-tumors/overview-of-intracranial-tumors. Accessed March 12, 2018.
- Michauid D, et al. Risk factors for brain tumors. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed March 12, 2018.
- Louis DN, et al. Classification and pathologic diagnosis of gliomas. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed March 12, 2018.
- Glioma. American Brain Tumor Association. http://www.abta.org/secure/glioblastoma-brochure.pdf. Accessed May 27, 2018.
- Physical therapy. American Brain Tumor Association. http://www.abta.org/brain-tumor-treatment/continuum-of-care/rehabilitation-options/physical-therapy.html. Accessed March 12, 2018.
- Central nervous system cancers. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed March 12, 2018.
- Risk factors for brain and spinal cord tumors. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/brain-spinal-cord-tumors-adults/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html. Accessed March 12, 2018.
- Microwaves, radio waves, and other types of radiofrequency radiation. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/radiofrequency-radiation.html. Accessed March 12, 2018.
- Radiation therapy for adult brain and spinal cord tumors. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/brain-spinal-cord-tumors-adults/treating/radiation-therapy.html. Accessed March 12, 2018.
- Louis DN, et al. The 2016 World Health Organization classification of tumors of the central nervous system: A summary. Acta Neuropathol. 2016;131:803.
- Novocure. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cdrh_docs/pdf10/P100034S013d.pdf. Accessed March 12, 2018.
- Riggin EA. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 12, 2018.
- Chen CC, et al. Stereotactic cranial radiosurgery. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed March 12, 2018.
- Porter AB (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 7, 2018.
- Mayo Clinic. U.S. News & World Report. http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/area/mn/mayo-clinic-6610451/pulmonology. Accessed March 12, 2018.
- Brain SPOREs. National Cancer Institute. https://trp.cancer.gov/spores/brain.htm. Accessed May 20, 2018.
- Stupp R, et al. High-grade malignant glioma: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology. 2010;21:v190. http://annonc.oxfordjournals.org/content/21/suppl_5/v190.full.pdf+html. Accessed Nov. 4, 2014.
- Taylor L. Diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of glioma: Five new things. Neurology: Clinical Practice. 2010:S28. http://www.neurology.org/content/75/18_Supplement_1/S28.full. Accessed Nov. 4, 2014.
- Omuro A, et al. Glioblastoma and other malignant gliomas: A clinical review. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2013;310:1842. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1764056. Accessed Nov. 4, 2014.
- What you need to know about brain tumors. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/brain.pdf. Accessed Nov. 6, 2014.
- Armstrong TS, et al. Use of complementary and alternative medical therapy by patients with primary brain tumors. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. 2008;8:264.
- Burns TC (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 2, 2018.
- Uhm JH (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 20, 2017.
News from Mayo Clinic