• Oligodendroglioma

    Oligodendrogliomas are low-grade gliomas, a type of brain tumor, that arise from a type of cell called an oligodendrocyte. Oligodendrocytes are a type of glial cell that makes up the supportive network for nerves of the brain and spinal cord.

    • Oligodendrogliomas 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 for no known reason.

    Oligodendroglioma Treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's

    Children and adolescents with oligodendroglioma are treated through our Glioma Program, one of the largest and most experienced pediatric glioma programs in the world, and part of the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Brain Tumor Center.

    Our glioma specialists – a team of neuro-oncologists, surgeons, pathologists and radiation oncologists – focus solely on the care of children diagnosed with gliomas. The Glioma Program also offers families the chance to have their child's tumor molecularly profiled (as long as a biopsy can be taken), which may help identify opportunities for targeted treatment.

    What are oligodendroglioma causes and symptoms?

    Oligodendroglioma causes

    The vast majority of children with oligodendrogliomas develop them spontaneously, and there is no identifiable cause. However, if your child has certain genetic syndromes, including neurofibromatosis type I and tuberous sclerosis, he may be at a higher risk of developing certain kinds of tumors, including oligodendrogliomas.

    Oligodendroglioma symptoms

    Due to the relatively slow growth rate of oligodendrogliomas, your child may have been having symptoms for many months by the time he sees the doctor, although symptoms can come on rapidly, too. While each child may experience symptoms differently, the most common ones are caused by increased pressure in the brain and include:

    • headache (generally upon awakening in the morning)
    • vomiting
    • fatigue

    Your child might also experience seizures and hemiparesis (weakness on one side of his body).

    The symptoms of an oligodendroglioma may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

    How are oligodendrogliomas diagnosed?

    Diagnostic procedures for an oligodendroglioma may include:

    • physical examination – Your child may demonstrate evidence of increased pressure in the brain.
    • computerized tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan) – a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays. For an oligodendroglioma, a CT scan of the brain is usually done.
    • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. For an oligodendroglioma, MRIs of the brain and spine are usually done.
    • electroencephalogram (EEG) – if your child is experiencing seizures, this procedure records his brain's continuous, electrical activity by means of electrodes attached to the scalp, and helps identify and localize seizure activity to a particular section of the brain.
    • biopsy – a tissue sample from the tumor taken through a needle during a simple surgical procedure to confirm the diagnosis.

    What are oligodendroglioma treatment options?

    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.

    How is progressive or recurrent oligodendroglioma treated?

    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 offers a large range of new and innovative treatments for children with progressive or recurrent brain tumors not responsive to standard therapy. Search our clinical trials for relapsed and refractory cancer.

    What is the long-term outlook for children with oligodendroglioma?

    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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