Medically reviewed on Aug 2, 2018
Oligodendroglioma is a tumor that can occur in the brain or spinal cord. Oligodendroglioma forms from oligodendrocytes — cells in the brain and spinal cord that produce a substance that protects nerve cells.
Oligodendroglioma can occur at any age, but most often affects adults. Signs and symptoms can include seizures and headaches. Weakness or disability can occur in the part of the body that's controlled by the nerve cells affected by the tumor.
Oligodendroglioma treatment usually involves surgery to remove the tumor. Additional treatments may be necessary if the tumor is aggressive or is more likely to recur.
Tests and procedures used to diagnose oligodendroglioma include:
- Neurological exam. During a neurological exam, your doctor will ask you about your signs and symptoms. He or she may check your vision, hearing, balance, coordination, strength and reflexes. Problems in one or more of these areas may provide clues about the part of your brain that could be affected by a brain tumor.
Imaging tests. Imaging tests can help your doctor determine the location and size of your brain tumor. MRI is often used to diagnose brain tumors, and it may be used along with specialized MRI imaging, such as functional MRI and magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
Other imaging tests may include CT and positron emission tomography (PET).
Removing a sample of tissue for testing (biopsy). A biopsy can be done with a needle before surgery or during surgery to remove your oligodendroglioma, depending on your particular situation and the location of your tumor. The sample of suspicious tissue is analyzed in a laboratory to determine the types of cells and their level of aggressiveness.
Specialized tests of the tumor cells can tell your doctor the types of mutations the cells have acquired. This gives your doctor clues about your prognosis and may guide your treatment options.
Oligodendroglioma treatment options include:
Surgery to remove the tumor. Your brain surgeon (neurosurgeon) will work to remove as much of the oligodendroglioma as possible without affecting healthy brain tissue. Specialized surgical techniques, such as awake brain surgery, can help ensure that sensitive brain tissue isn't damaged during surgery.
Additional treatments may be recommended after surgery if any tumor cells remain or if there's an increased risk your tumor will recur.
Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs can be taken in pill form or through a vein in your arm.
Chemotherapy is often used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that might remain. It can be combined with radiation therapy for aggressive cancers. For people who can't undergo surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be used as a primary treatment.
Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, to kill cancer cells. During radiation therapy, you lie on a table while a machine moves around you, directing beams to precise points in your brain.
Radiation therapy is sometimes recommended after surgery and may be combined with chemotherapy.
- Clinical trials. Clinical trials are studies of new treatments. These studies give you a chance to try the latest treatment options, but the risk of side effects may not be known. Ask your doctor whether you might be eligible to participate in a clinical trial.
- Supportive (palliative) care. Palliative care is specialized medical care that focuses on providing relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness. Palliative care specialists work with you, your family and your other doctors to provide an extra layer of support that complements your ongoing care. Palliative care can be used while undergoing other aggressive treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.