What Is Glioma? Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

Your doctor can diagnose glioma by asking about your symptoms and performing an exam, in addition to ordering imaging tests such as an MRI to examine your brain and detect any areas that appear abnormal.

Gliomas develop randomly in children; however, those who carry certain genetic syndromes have an increased chance of them. Also, those who’ve undergone radiation therapy to the head or neck are at an increased risk. A proper glioma prognosis is all about having the knowledge presented below.


Gliomas can occur anywhere in the brain or spinal cord and may be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant. Gliomas grow and press upon nerves and parts of the brain responsible for movement, speech, vision, memory, and other functions that control movement, speech, and other activities.

Symptoms depend on where and how large a tumor is located; headache is the most frequently experienced symptom, while others include fatigue, instability, memory difficulties, and irritability. Gliomas can sometimes also cause seizures that range in severity from mild shaking to involuntary shaking.

Gliomas can be divided into four grades, depending on their rate of cell division and whether they show signs of cancerous transformation. Astrocytomas, which arise from astrocytes, are the most frequently encountered. Oligodendrogliomas that arise from oligodendrocytes tend to respond better to treatment; while Ependymomas (those originating in cells lining brain ventricles and spinal canal ventricles) are extremely rare forms.


Gliomas begin when cells in the brain or spinal cord develop mutations to their DNA that cause them to divide more quickly than healthy cells, leading to tumor formation. Once formed, tumors can press on nerves and other parts of the brain causing headaches, weakness, vision problems, and personality or behavioral changes in patients.

Gliomas often present themselves with headaches as their rapid tumor growth causes a “mass effect”, increasing pressure within the brain. Other symptoms may include behavioral changes, memory loss, loss of muscle control, and confusion as well as seizures.

Gliomas are divided into four grades depending on how fast their cells grow and whether or not they display necrosis (cell death) or vascular proliferation (an increase in blood vessel growth that cancerous tumors exhibit). Low-grade gliomas typically have a better prognosis than their higher-grade counterparts.


Treatment options for a favorable glioma prognosis depend on its size, type, grade, and whether or not it presses against other parts of your brain. At Memorial Sloan Kettering, you will meet with both a surgeon and a medical oncologist to formulate a personalized care plan.

Your treatment options could include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy treatments, or even a combination thereof. We utilize brain mapping during surgery in order to identify areas that control vital functions so as not to remove healthy tissues.

Your diagnosis could include low-grade gliomas like pilocytic astrocytoma (IDH-mutant, WHO grade 2) or oligodendroglioma (1p/19q codeleted, WHO grade 2) that grow slowly and can often be managed with surgery alone. Other types of gliomas, including anaplastic and diffuse midline glioma cannot be completely cured with surgery alone and may require radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy and immunotherapy; we offer treatments such as temozolomide which targets abnormal cells directly.


Gliomas are the most prevalent brain tumor among those without other cancers, often caused by mutations to DNA that cause cells to multiply too rapidly or die too frequently, forming an abnormal mass of tissue known as a tumor that presses on or damages nerves or parts of the brain, blocking fluid flow or leading to swelling in either area of your head or spinal cord.

Some gliomas can be successfully treated. High-grade (anaplastic gliomas), however, tend to grow and spread more quickly and are untreatable.

About 80,000 Americans are diagnosed annually with primary brain tumors in the US; roughly one-fourth are gliomas. Headaches are often the first sign that someone has a glioma; other symptoms may include seizures, weakness or loss of muscle control, changes in behavior, vision problems, and speech difficulties.