Malignant Brain Tumors

Gliomas are the most widespread type of adult brain tumor, making up 78% of all malignant brain tumors. Gliomas arise from the supporting cells of the brain, called “glia.” Glia are of three types – astrocytes, ependymal cells and oliogodendrogial cells. Glial tumors include the following:

Astrocytomas: These are the most commonly occuring glioma, comprising about half of all primary tumours of the brain and spinal cord. They develop from astrocytes which are part of the brainÕs supportive tissue. Astrocytomas can occur in many parts of the brain, but they most commonly occur in the cerebrum. They affect people of all ages but tend to be more commonly found in adults and middle-aged men in particular. Astrocytomas found in the base of the brain most commonly occur in children or young people. They form the majority of children’s brain tumours. When occuring in children, they are considered low-grade but, in adults, they are mostly high-grade.

Ependymomas are derived from a neoplastic transformation of the ependymal cells lining the ventricular system. They comprise 2 to 3% of all brain tumors, most of which are well-defined though some may not be.

Glioblastomas multiforme (GBM) is the most invasive type of glial tumor and can be composed of several different kinds of cells from astrocytes to oligodendrocytes. GBM tumors mostly grow at a rapid pace, spread quickly to other tissue. GBM is most common in people between the ages 50 and 70, and more so in men. They have a poor prognosis.

Medulloblastomas usually arise in the cerebellum and occur most commonly in children. These are high-grade tumors, but they commonly respond to radiation and chemotherapy treatment.

Oligodendrogliomas are tumours which are derived from the cells that make myelin (the insulation for the wiring of the brain).

Malignant brain tumours are treated via craniotomy (opening of the skull to surgically excise the tumour) and sometimes through an “awake” craniotomy (where the patient is kept conscious in order to ensure proper preservation of brain function). Today brain surgery is often done in a minimally invasive manner wherein the entry is extremely small, resulting in less trauma, quicker recovery times and very little external evidence of the procedure in the form of scarring.

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