Understanding Brain Cancer -Brain Stem Glioma

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By Dr.Kevin Buckman and Chris Ryan

Brain stem glioma is supposedly a type of cancer which is generally found in children and teenagers. The normal cells in the brain multiply uncontrollably and thus form a mass of tumor. A tumor can be either malignant tumor or benign tumor. Glioma is the tumor which affects the glial cell that is a supportive cell in the brain. Brain stem glioma is known to spread rapidly through the brain stem during the process of diagnosis. This type of tumor is known to be aggressive as it spreads quickly. This type of tumor largely affects children who belong to the age group of five and ten years old. Brain stem glioma is a life threatening disorder mainly because it grows in the part of brain stem where it is difficult to perform a surgery.

This type of brainstem cancer affects the cranial nerves, the crania nerves are the ones which supple the muscles connected to the eye, face and the muscles which are involved in swallowing. Thus the symptoms comprise double-vision, incapability to close eyelids properly, tilting a particular side of the face, and complicates the procedure of chewing and gulping down. This tumor even hampers the process of walking and speaking. Symptoms rapidly worsen as and when the tumor grows. These tumors also obstruct the cerebrospinal fluid in the brain this increases the frequency of vomiting and headaches.

For effective treatment of brain stem glioma radiation is the best suggested alternative. Surgery is mostly not conducted because these tumors are extensively spread within the brain stem. A number patients have to face permanent psychological, cognitive and defects which arise from the treatment itself. Around 3,800 children suffer from brain stem glioma annually and around 950 of these are mostly benign tumors. It has also been estimated that only about 10 to 15 percent of the children who suffer from the brain stem glioma survive this disorder within three years of the diagnosis. 

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