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Low-Grade Glioma

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is a low-grade glioma?

A low-grade glioma is a brain tumor. The tumor is formed in cells that support the neurons in your brain. Neurons are responsible for movement, thought processing, and senses. Most low-grade gliomas grow slowly and are more common in children and adults younger than 40.

What increases my risk for a low-grade glioma?

  • Genetic disorders, such as neurofibromatosis and tuberous sclerosis
  • Radiation therapy used to treat tumors of the head and neck

What are the signs and symptoms of a low-grade glioma?

Signs and symptoms depend on the size and location of the tumor. The first symptom is usually a seizure. You may also have any of the following:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness, weakness, or paralysis
  • Trouble concentrating or confusion
  • Personality changes
  • Vision problems

How is a low-grade glioma diagnosed?

You may need any of the following:

  • A neurologic exam is done to check brain function. Your healthcare provider will check how your pupils react to light. He or she may check your memory and how easily you wake up. Your hand grasp and balance may also be tested.
  • A CT scan, MRI, or PET scan of your brain is done to look for a tumor. You may be given dye to help your brain show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • A biopsy may be done to learn what type of tumor you have. A sample of brain tissue will be taken during a procedure or surgery and sent to a lab for tests.

How are low-grade gliomas treated?

Treatment depends on the location and size of the tumor, and your signs and symptoms. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you have regular tests and follow-up visits to watch for changes. You may also need any of the following:

  • Medicines can prevent or control seizures. You may also be given steroids to decrease or prevent brain swelling.
  • Surgery may be used to remove part or all of the tumor. Ask for more information about surgery for low-grade gliomas.
  • Chemotherapy can shrink and kill tumor cells. When the tumor is smaller, you may need surgery to remove the rest. Your healthcare provider may use blood tests to see how much chemotherapy you need.
  • Radiation uses x-rays or gamma rays to kill tumor cells and keep them from spreading. Radiation may be given after surgery to kill any tumor cells that were not removed.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

What can I do to manage my symptoms?

  • Drink more liquids as directed to prevent dehydration. You will need to drink more if you are vomiting or have diarrhea from cancer treatments. Ask which liquids to drink and how much you need each day.
  • Eat healthy foods to help you feel better during treatment and decrease side effects. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and fish. A dietitian may help to plan the best meals for you.
    Healthy Foods

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) or have someone call if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Confusion or difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
  • You have confusion or trouble speaking.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You faint or are dizzy.
  • You have a severe headache or vision loss.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You are vomiting and cannot keep any food or liquids down.
  • You cannot make it to your radiation or chemotherapy appointment.
  • You have a new headache or dizziness.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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