Glioma is a tumour that occurs in the brain and spinal cord. Gliomas originate from the glial cells which are the supportive cells that surround nerve cells.
Gliomas maybe classified based on the cell of origin: Gliomas originate from glial cells. The glial cells surround neurons (nerve cells) and provide support as well as insulation between them. Glial cells are the most abundant cell types in the central nervous system. Three types of glial cells can produce tumours:
Astrocytomas: These begin in cells called astrocytes. Subtypes of astrocytomas include astrocytoma, anaplastic astrocytoma and glioblastoma.
Ependymomas: Ependymomas begin in the ependymal cells found in the brain and spinal cord. These are present in the passageways through which passes a fluid called cerebrospinal fluid. Subtypes include anaplastic ependymoma, myxopapillary ependymoma and subependymoma.
Oligodendrogliomas: Oligodendroglioma forms from oligodendrocytes, which are cells in the brain and spinal cord which produce a substance that protects the nerve cells. Subtypes include oligodendroglioma, anaplastic oligodendroglioma and anaplastic oligoastrocytoma.
A specialist of cancer may classify gliomas on a scale which ranges from 1 to 4. The grade reflects the aggressiveness of the tumour. Grade 1 tumours occur mainly in children and tend to have the best prognosis. Grade 2 tumours or low-grade gliomas represent slow-growing tumours which have an intermediate prognosis. Grade 3 or anaplastic tumours and Grade 4 tumours (glioblastoma) are considered high-grade gliomas as they tend to be more aggressive and have the least favourable prognosis.
Sources: Mayo Clinic; European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO)
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