What are Oligodendrogliomas?
Oligodendrogliomas are a type of intracranial nerve sheath tumor that develop from the oligodendrocyte cells. Oligodendrocytes cells are a type of glial cell that helps protect the transmission of messages and instructions by neurons in the peripheral nervous system. The cells do this by creating a protective coating called the myelin sheath around the nerve cells in the central nervous system. Oligodendrogliomas are very rare and are divided into two grades, depending on the speed of their growth and whether the tumor is able to infiltrate surrounding tissue.
The nervous system is your body's biological means for communicating and coordinating sensory, muscle and organ functions. This complex network has two main parts, the Central Nervous System and the Peripheral Nervous System. The Central Nervous System, or CNS, is composed of your brain and spinal cord, and it uses their nerve cells, fibers, and supportive cells to receive, process, and send instructive messages throughout your body. Your peripheral nervous system, or PNS, is composed of nerves that serve to carry those messages back and forth between the CNS and the rest of the body. The peripheral nervous system does this by connecting our blood vessels, muscles, glands, and sensory organs to the central nervous system. The nerve cells, or neurons, carry messages, while glial cells are a supportive type of cell that protect and nourish the neurons in the nervous system. Some of the glial cells include oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, ependymal cells, Schwann cells, microglia, and satellite cells.
What causes Oligodendrogliomas?
A tumor is an abnormal growth caused by abnormal cell multiplication that does not serve any physiological function. Cell division is regulated by the tumor suppressor genes. These genes also help to repair any damage caused to the DNA. Tumor suppressor genes are constantly at war against the cancer-causing genes called oncogenes. When tumor suppressor genes fail to function properly due to mutations that affect protein encoding, unregulated cell division and growth can occur and cause the development of a tumor.
The body's natural defense system should optimally detect the abnormal cells and kill them. But tumors may produce substances that obstruct the immune system from recognizing the abnormality of tumor cells and eventually the tumor cells may overpower all internal and external checks to their growth.
The exact causes of oligodendrogliomas are not yet fully known, but certain genetic conditions like neurofibromatosis may increase the likelihood of this condition.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Symptoms vary depending on the location and severity of the tumor, but initial symptoms may include headaches, nausea, and changes in vision. Other symptoms might include seizures, cognitive changes, or behavioral changes.
This condition may be diagnosed after a review of your medical history and a physical and neurological exam. Your doctor will use a biopsy or imaging studies like an MRI or CT scan in order to confirm the diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment.
How are Oligodendrogliomas treated?
Treatment of oligodendroliomas depend on the severity of the tumor and the general health of the patient. Potential treatment options may include surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy.