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Gliomas are brain tumours that develop from a group of brain cells called glial cells.
Glial cells support and protect the neurons in your brain and spinal column by providing the neurons with oxygen and nutrients - as well as removing dead cells. There are 3 main types of glial cell:
A glioma is a brain tumour that has developed from a glial cell. Often, a biopsy will show that a tumour is mainly made of a particular type of glial cell and a more specific diagnosis can be made.
Brain tumours that develop from astrocytes are called astrocytomas. These include glioblastomas, which are grade 4 astrocytomas.
Brain tumours that grow from oligodendrocytes are called oligodendrogliomas
Brain tumours that grow from ependymal cells are called ependymomas.
Sometimes, it's not easy to tell what type of glial cell a brain tumour developed from. A diagnosis of an unspecified or mixed glioma may be given if doctors are either unable to perform a biopsy or the biopsy is inconclusive.
When the World Health Organization (WHO) updated their list of tumour types in 2015, they did not include unspecified or mixed gliomas. This is because the term doesn't really describe a single distinct type of tumour.
The closest thing to an unspecified glioma in the new WHO classification is the oligoastrocytoma, which describes a tumour that has the characteristics of both an oligodendroglioma and an astrocytoma.
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