Oligodendroglioma is a rare tumor that occurs in the brain. It belongs to a group of brain tumors called gliomas. Gliomas are primary tumors. This means they have originated in the brain rather than spreading from elsewhere in the body.
Around 3% of all brain tumors are oligodendrogliomas. The tumors can be fast or slow growing. They are more commonly diagnosed in adults, though young children can also be affected. In rare cases, the tumors can spread through the central nervous system via the fluid around your brain and spinal cord.
Oligodendrogliomas are typically divided into two types:
- grade II (slow growing)
- anaplastic grade III (fast growing and malignant)
Life expectancy and survival rate
People with oligodendrogliomas have a higher survival rate than most other brain tumors. There are many treatment options available and oligodendrogliomas appear to respond well to treatment. It’s unusual to be able to completely remove the disease, but it’s entirely possible to prolong the life of someone with an oligodendroglioma.
The life expectancy of a person with an oligodendroglioma depends upon the grade of the tumor and how early it has been diagnosed. It’s important to remember that each person’s circumstances are different and life expectancy statistics do not take into account individual factors, such as your overall health and your quality of care.
As a general rule, people with grade II oligodendrogliomas are likely to live for around 12 years following diagnosis. People with grade III oligodendrogliomas are expected to live an average of 3.5 years.
Do talk to your doctors. They will be able to give you a more individualized prognosis for your condition.
There are a wide variety of symptoms for oligodendroglioma. The symptoms you experience will depend upon the size of the tumor and what part of your brain the tumor is growing in.
The symptoms of oligodendroglioma are often mistakenly diagnosed as a stroke. As the symptoms progress over time, further diagnosis is often sought. In these cases, the tumor has usually grown larger by the time a proper diagnosis is reached.
When the tumor is located in the frontal lobe, symptoms often include:
- changes to your behavior and personality
- memory loss
- loss of vision
When the tumor is located in the parietal lobe, symptoms often include:
- changes to your sense of touch
- problems with coordination and balance
- difficulty concentrating
- difficulty reading, writing, and calculating
- difficulty recognizing and interpreting sensations
- inability to recognize objects by touching them
When the tumor is located in the temporal lobe, symptoms often include:
- loss of hearing
- inability to understand language and music
- memory loss
What are the causes?
There are no known causes of oligodendroglioma. Research that is focused around genetics is currently underway, but this has not been completed. Unfortunately, there are fewer clinical trials for rare forms of cancer because they are harder to organize. When a research trial is too small, the results aren’t strong enough to prove that one type of treatment is better than another. So, getting enough people to participate is crucial to the success of a trial.
There are a number of treatment options available. Your doctors will decide together with you what the best course of action is in your case. They will base their decisions upon a number of factors: your general health, the grade and location of your tumor, and the final diagnosis given by a neurosurgeon.
Initially, steroids will be given to minimize the swelling around the tumor. If you’re experiencing seizures, then you may also be given anticonvulsants.
Surgery is typically used for treating oligodendrogliomas, particularly if the tumor is low grade. However, surgery often doesn’t completely remove the tumor effectively, so there is a need to use other therapies following the surgery to avoid reoccurrence.
Radiotherapy involves the use of high energy rays. It’s typically used after surgery to help kill any tiny fragments of the tumor that may remain. It’s also used to treat malignant tumors.
This treatment uses cytotoxic drugs to help kill cancer cells and can be used before and after radiotherapy. It’s also useful for shrinking brain tumors, particularly those that cannot be surgically removed. It’s recommended for malignant tumors and reoccurring cases.
Outlook and recurrence
The outlook for oligodendroglioma tumors depends on the grading scale of the tumor, the overall health of the person who is diagnosed, and how early the tumor has been diagnosed. People who are diagnosed and begin treatment earlier have a higher chance of survival.
Successful treatment plans often employ several methods. This reduces the chance that the tumor will reoccur.
Like all other gliomas, oligodendrogliomas have a very high rate of recurrence and often gradually increase in grade over time. Recurrent tumors are often treated with more aggressive forms of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.