Low-grade gliomas are a slow-growing, less aggressive kind of tumor that can grow in a number of places in the brain and spinal cord. The good news is that, in general, children with low-grade gliomas have better long-term health than those with malignant, high-grade tumors.
Low-grade gliomas are the most common brain tumor in children. They come from a type of brain cell, called a glial cell, that supports and protects the brain. Most come from a type of glial cell called an astrocyte, so they are also called astrocytomas. These tumors may be classified according to their location in the brain: low-grade cerebellar astrocytomas, including cerebellar pilocytic astrocytoma (cerebellum); cervico-medullary astrocytoma (brainstem); optic pathway glioma (optic nerve); thalamic/hypothalamic astrocytoma (thalamus/hypothalamus).
Patients with low-grade gliomas are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Glioma Program. Continue reading to learn more about low-grade gliomas or visit the Glioma Program homepage to learn about our expertise and approach to treating this condition.
The most common symptoms include
In addition to a physical exam, medical history and neurological exam (which tests reflexes, muscle strength, eye and mouth movement, coordination and alertness), doctors may requests tests, including:
After all necessary tests are complete, the best treatment options can be identified.
Your child’s physician will determine a specific course of treatment based on several factors. Some therapies will treat the tumor while others are intended to address complications of the disease or side effects of the treatment. These treatments include:
These treatments may be used alone or in combination. In addition, through the low-grade glioma research program at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's a number of less toxic biologic targeted therapies for pediatric low-grade gliomas are now available.
There can be side effects related to the tumor itself or its treatment. Knowing what these side effects are can help the care team prepare for and, in some cases, prevent these symptoms from occurring.
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