Oligodendrogliomas are uncommon brain tumors. They make up about 4% of all brain tumors. They are usually found in men in their mid-30s to mid-40s, but they can develop at any age, including during childhood.
Because brain tumors are much less common in children than adults, little research has been done to explain why they happen or how best to treat them. For this reason, doctors might recommend participation in a clinical trial as part of the treatment plan.
A clinical trail tests new treatments to determine how well they work. You may also hear the term clinical study used to describe this type of research.
Symptoms of brain tumors depend on where in the brain the tumor is located. For example, if a tumor develops in the region that controls speech, the child's speaking would be affected.
These are possible symptoms of an oligodendroglioma:
Changes in mood or personality
Problems with vision or speech
Oligodendrogliomas and their treatment may lead to the following complications:
Return of the cancer
Disabilities, such as impaired speech or vision, depending on the location of the tumor
Changes in development and growth, usually as a result of radiation
Doctors typically take a medical history and do a physical examination that may include a neurological exam to look at vision, hearing, speech, thinking, and motor skills. The tests conducted will usually focus on a child's age-appropriate abilities.
The doctor might also want to order imaging tests to find out more about the tumor and its location. MRIs or CT scans are likely to be included.
These other tests might also be done:
Biopsy, which involves a laboratory examination of a small sample of the tissue in the tumor to check for signs of cancer
The tumor will be graded on a scale from I to IV. Grade I means that the cancer cells have only barely started to grow, whereas grade IV means that they are fairly advanced in their growth. Grades II and III describe progression toward advanced cancer.
Doctors may also use terms such as low grade to describe slower-growing cancer tumors or high grade (anaplastic oligodendrogliomas) to describe faster-growing tumors. Commonly, oligodendrogliomas are mixed with other types of cells. These are called oligoastrocytomas.
Treating brain tumors is complicated because of their location. As a result, treatment may involve many different approaches:
Steroids, which help reduce the swelling around the tumor.
Anticonvulsant medication to help control any seizures.
Shunt to drain any fluid that has built up in or around the brain.
Surgery to remove part or all of the tumor.
Chemotherapy, a drug-based treatment to kill the cancer cells. Sometimes a combination of chemotherapy drugs is needed; currently, researchers are trying to determine if chemotherapy can help children avoid radiation. Pathologists have found that specific changes in the chromosomes of some oligodendrogliomas make them respond better to chemotherapy.
Radiation, a treatment with high-energy beams often used in combination with surgery to help control the tumor and improve the surgery's chances for success. In some cases, chemotherapy may be combined with radiation for a better outcome.
Traditionally, oligodendrogliomas respond well to chemotherapy. Therefore, if your tumor requires further treatment after the surgery, it is usually a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. Imaging tests will be used after surgery and during treatment to check on the tumor's progress. After treatment, a child will need follow-up care in subsequent years to make sure the cancer has not returned.
If your child has been diagnosed with an oligodendroglioma tumor, you may want to consider getting a second opinion. In fact, some insurance companies require a second opinion for such diagnoses. It is very rare that the time it will take to get a second opinion will have a negative impact on your child's treatment. The peace of mind a second opinion provides may be well worth the effort.