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How are oligodendrogliomas treated?

Oligodendrogliomas are the third most common glioma, accounting for 2-5% of all primary brain tumours and 5-18% of gliomas. They are more common in adults, particularly in people aged 40-60.

Oligodendrogliomas are divided into two grades:

  • Grade two (low grade) oligodendrogliomas, which are very slow growing
  • Grade three (high grade) anaplastic oligodendrogliomas, which are a faster growing and malignant.

Oligodendroglioma treatments

The treatment of an oligodendroglioma depends on whether it's a grade two or three tumour.

Watch and wait

Some grade two oligodendrogliomas grow very slowly and you may be put on watch and wait. which doesn't involve treatment to get rid of the tumour. 

Instead, the growth of your tumour will be closely monitored using MRI scans and you may be given treatment to help manage any symptoms that affect your quality of life.

Surgery

If a grade two oligodendroglioma is large or affecting your quality-of-life, surgery may be performed to remove as much as possible if it is located in an area where it is safe to remove. 

If the neurosurgeon manages to remove all of the visible tumour cells, this may be the only treatment you receive and you might then be put on 'watch and wait'. 

Many patients with a grade two oligodendroglioma will remain in remission  for several years after surgery, with no signs of the tumour growing. However, if the tumour appears to have changed or grown, this is when your doctors will consider additional surgery or starting radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Because grade-three oligodendrogliomas are larger and faster-growing, watch and wait is less common. Instead, it's common to have surgery quite soon after diagnosis.

Radiotherapy and chemotherapy

Oligodendrogliomas are often 'diffuse', which means they have thread-like tendrils that extend into parts of the brain making it difficult to remove completely. 

After surgery, patients with a grade three oligodendroglioma will often receive a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells that weren't able to be removed during surgery.

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