What is oligodendroglioma?

Oligodendrogliomas are primary brain tumours which means they have originated in the brain instead of spreading from elsewhere. They belong to the group of brain tumours known as gliomas as they develop from a type of glial cell known as an oligodendrocyte.

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.

What causes oligodendrogliomas?

As with most tumours, the cause is not known. This can be a difficult thing to accept and can leave you feeling helpless, but there is nothing you could have done to prevent this from happening.

What are the types of oligodrendroglioma?

Oligodendrogliomas are divided into two grades:

  • Grade 2 (low grade) oligodendrogliomas are very slow growing
  • Grade 3 (high grade) anaplastic oligodendrogliomas are a faster growing and malignant type

The majority of oligodendrogliomas occur in the frontal lobe, and the second most common site affected is the temporal lobe.

Oligodendroglioma treatments

The treatment of an oligodendroglioma depends on whether a tumour is grade 2 or grade 3.

Some grade 2 oligodendrogliomas grow very slowly and you may be put on ' watch and wait' which involves close monitoring of your tumour using MRI scans.

Surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy

If the tumour is large or causing symptoms, 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'. If the tumour appears to have changed or grown, this is when your doctors will consider additional surgery or starting treatment with radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Many patients with a grade 2 oligodendroglioma will remain in remission (i.e. no signs of the tumour growing) for several years after surgery.

Like grade 2, grade 3 oligodendrogliomas are usually first treated with surgery. If the tumour is located in an area where it is safe to remove, the neurosurgeon will attempt to remove as much as possible. Oligodendrogliomas are often 'diffuse' meaning they have threadlike tendrils that extend into parts of the brain making it difficult to remove completely. After surgery patients will often receive a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

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