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​Glioma Tumors

What is Glioma?

Gliomas are brain tumors which may vary widely in aggressiveness.

Since gliomas arise from the brain tissue itself, they can cause a number of symptoms — ranging from simple headaches to seizures, movement disorders, confusion, sleepiness, speech disorders, and coordination difficulties.

Common subtypes of gliomas

There are multiple subtypes of gliomas, such as:

Some of these tumors are diagnosed based on brain biopsy alone, while others are diagnosed and treated via surgical removal, either through a standard approach or using minimally invasive surgery.

At UPMC, we provide a wide spectrum of treatment approaches, tailored to your specific needs. Our goal is to optimize therapy and minimize side effects.

An innovative approach for the surgical treatment of gliomas in the substance of the brain or ventricles is Neuroendoport® surgery. Neuroendoport surgery gives surgeons access to the glioma through a dime-size channel. This minimally invasive approach offers benefits such as:

  • Minimal scarring
  • Fewer side effects and complications
  • Faster recovery times than with traditional surgery

In addition, each of these tumors is usually treated with additional therapies following diagnosis and surgery, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and Gamma Knife® radiosurgery.

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a painless procedure that uses hundreds of highly focused radiation beams to target tumors and lesions within the brain, with no surgical incision.

Diagnosing Glioma

Like most brain cancers, doctors can initially diagnose gliomas through imaging studies, such as MRI or CT scans. A biopsy will confirm the diagnosis and glioma type.

Common types of gliomas include astrocytomas, glioblastomas, oligodendrogliomas, and ependymomas.

Symptoms of gliomas

Your doctor will ask you about your glioma symptoms. Glioma tumor symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness or loss of sensation in the arms and/or legs
  • Coordination difficulties
  • Speech, vision, or memory problems
  • Personality changes
  • Movement disorders
  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness

Glioma Treatments

At UPMC, we use various surgical and non-surgical methods to treat glioma cancer. Our neurosurgical team may use these approaches together or individually.

Our neurosurgeons take a comprehensive approach to your condition. We will look at your brain from every direction to find the path to the glioma that is least disruptive to your brain, critical nerves, and ability to return to functioning.

Minimally invasive surgery for gliomas

Neuroendoport® surgery offers a minimally invasive option for tumors within the ventricles (fluid spaces) or deep-seated tumors within the substance of the brain. A narrow tube or port allows surgeons to access these tumors through a tiny incision in the scalp, in contrast to traditional brain surgery.

Stereotactic radiosurgery using the Gamma Knife®

If you have residual glioma tumor or tumor recurrence, despite an initial multipronged treatment approach, Gamma Knife® radiosurgery may be an option.

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a painless procedure that uses hundreds of highly focused radiation beams to target tumors and lesions within the brain, with no surgical incision.

As the nation's leading provider of Gamma Knife procedures, UPMC has treated more than 12,000 patients with tumors, vascular malformations, pain, and other functional problems.

We also offer stereotactic radiosurgery using the Cyberknife and other linear accelerator-based systems.

Radiation therapy

Radiation — either alone or in combination with surgery and/or chemotherapy — is a common treatment for gliomas.

We may deliver radiation therapy:

  • Externally, by directing radiation at the glioma from an outside source.
  • Internally, by placing radioactive material directly in the body near the cancer.

Chemotherapy for gliomas

Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the growth of glioma cancer cells.

Depending on the type of glioma and stage of the cancer, chemotherapy may be given orally, injected, or placed directly into the glioma tumor site.


Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Dr. L. Dade Lunsford discusses Gamma Knife Radiosurgery.


Neuroendoport® Surgery
This animation illustrates the removal of a metastasis using the Neuroendoport technique.

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