• Oligodendroglioma Overview

    Oligodendrogliomas are low-grade (relatively benign) tumors arising from a type of cell, called an oligodendrocyte, that makes up the supportive network for nerves of the brain and spinal cord.

    These rare tumors occur mostly in the frontal lobe, the section of the brain that influences personality and reasoning, but they can occur anywhere in the brain or along the spinal cord.  Certain genetic syndromes, such as neurofibromatosis 1 and tuberous sclerosis, increase the risk for developing brain tumors, including oligodendrogliomas; however, most of these tumors develop spontaneously.

    Oligodendrogliomas Treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's 

    Patients with oligodendrogliomas are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Hospital Cancer Center through our Brain Tumor Center. Continue reading to learn more about oligodendrogliomas or visit the Brain Tumor Center homepage to learn about our expertise.

    Symptoms & Diagnosis

    Since oligodendrogliomas grow relatively slowly, your child may have symptoms for many months prior to diagnosis, or symptoms may appear more suddenly.

    Common symptoms of oligodendroglioma include increased pressure within the brain, headache (generally upon awakening in the morning), vomiting and fatigue. Your child might also experience seizures or hemiparesis, weakness on one side of the body.

    Your child’s physician may order a number of different tests to best diagnose the tumor. In addition to a physical exam, medical history and neurological exam (which tests reflexes, muscle strength, eye and mouth movement, coordination and alertness), your child’s doctor may requests diagnostic imaging tests, including:

    • Computerized tomography (CT or CAT) scan
    • Magnetic resonance imaging
    • Biopsy 
    • Electroencephalogram

    After we complete all necessary tests, our experts meet with you and your family to discuss the results and outline the best treatment options.

    Treatment & Care

    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 treatment. These treatments include:

    Surgery and radiation therapy may be used alone or in combination.

    There can be side effects related to the tumor itself or its treatment. Knowing what these side effects are can help you, your child, and your care team prepare for and, in some cases, prevent these symptoms from occurring.

    Progressive or Recurrent Disease

    The recommended treatment for progressive or recurrent oligodendroglioma is a second surgical procedure to remove the remaining tumor, followed by radiation therapy, chemotherapy or biologic therapy. Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s is one of nine institutes in the nation belonging to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium, which is dedicated to developing new and innovative treatments for children with progressive or recurrent brain tumors not responsive to standard therapy.

    Long-term Outlook

    Oligodendrogliomas are associated with a high cure rate. Following complete removal of the tumor, the chance of long-term survival is near 90 percent. If the tumor is not completely removed and radiation therapy is needed, the prognosis still remains high, with survival rates ranging from 80 percent to 90 percent. 
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    Mark Kieran MD discusses multidisciplinary approaches to treating brain tumors; sponsored by American Brain Tumor Association.