Read about the various types of low-grade gliomas, including cerebellar, optic, brainstem, hemispherical, thalamic, and spinal cord gliomas.

To Remember

  • Low-grade glioma is the most common benign brain tumor in children, and you can save the life of your children with the help of Medication Assisted Treatment
  • Low-grade gliomas can occur in several places, including the brain, cerebellum, and brainstem.
  • The causes of low-grade glioma are unknown, but children with type 1 neurofibromatosis (NF1) have a slightly higher risk of developing low-grade glioma.
  • Common symptoms of a low-grade glioma include headache, vomiting, and diplopia, depending on the tumor’s location.

Glial cell tumors are called “glioma”. These cells support the nervous system. Gliomas can occur in any portion of the brain and can also be found in the spinal cord. More than half of brain tumors in children are gliomas. There are various types of gliomas. Examples are pilocytic astrocytoma, fibrillar astrocytoma, and pilomyxoid astrocytoma. Low-grade glioma is the most common benign brain tumor in children. The term “low grade” means that the glioma is growing slowly.

This glioma is also called “astrocytoma”. There are many types of low-grade glioma. Most low-grade gliomas are grade 1 tumors (pilocytic or juvenile pilocytic astrocytomas). Some of them are grade 2 (fibril astrocytomas). Low-grade gliomas are treated depending on where they are. They are commonly treated with surgery, which is sometimes followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Other options are considered when the operation is not possible, including observation, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

Types of Low-Grade Gliomas

Cerebellar

This type of low-grade glioma is located at the back of the brain, in the cerebellum. It is treated with surgery.

Optic / Hypothalamic

Usually, optic and hypothalamic gliomas are slow-growing tumors. Optic gliomas are found along the nerves that play a role in vision. Hypothalamic gliomas present in a portion of the brain called the hypothalamus. This portion of the brain plays an important role in controlling body temperature, water balance, blood sugar levels, and fat metabolism.

For more information, please see the About Optic and Hypothalamic Gliomas section of this website.

Brainstem

It is a benign tumor located in the brainstem at the base of the brain. These tumors are difficult to treat. Since the tumor is in a large area, surgery is often incomplete. After surgery, several options can be considered, including radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or observation.

Hemispherical

This type of low-grade glioma grows very slowly. It is situated in a cerebral hemisphere, in the upper portion of the brain. Epilepsy is a common symptom. This glioma is treated with surgery.

Thalamic

This type of tumor, which is found in the thalamus, is difficult and complex to treat. A biopsy can be taken to diagnose the tumor and then treat it with radiation or chemotherapy.

Spinal Cord

This tumor is found in the spinal cord. One of the symptoms of a spinal cord tumor is back pain, which gets worse at night. The tumor can also spread to the chest. Children with a spinal cord tumor can sometimes have a deformity of the spine called scoliosis and the arms or legs’ weakness. The main treatment for a tumor in the spinal cord is surgery. Some children may need chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and sometimes multiple surgeries.

What are The Causes of a Low-Grade Glioma?

We don’t know what causes low-grade glioma. A person with a medical condition called neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) has a slightly higher risk of developing low-grade glioma.

However, there is no way to predict that a child will have a tumor. No one is to blame if a child develops a tumor.

The researchers also investigated whether environmental factors, such as diet or chemicals, could cause brain tumors. At this time, there is no conclusive evidence that there is a link.

How Many More Children Have Low-Grade Glioma?

Low-grade gliomas are common brain tumors in children. Overall, about half of brain tumors in children are astrocytomas. In Canada, approximately 100 children are diagnosed with low-grade glioma each year.

What are the Medical Symptoms of Low-Grade Glioma?

Common symptoms of a baseline glioma include, but are not limited to, headache, vomiting, and diplopia. Glioma tumor’s signs mostly depend on the location of the glioma. Other symptoms include epilepsy, hydrocephalus, poor coordination, and problems with balance.

How Do You Know If a Kid Has Low-Grade Glioma?

Doctors and other medical professionals use well-established diagnostic tests to determine if a brain tumor is causing your child’s symptoms. These tests include, among other things, a physical exam and brain scans, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography. A biopsy might be needed. This kind of surgery allows doctors to remove tumor tissue samples to determine the exact type of tumor.

Diagnosing a brain tumor can be long and difficult. If the symptoms are severe, the diagnosis can be quick. If they are mild, the diagnosis could take months.

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