Brainstem Glioma

Brainstem Glioma

Brainstem Glioma: The cancerous tumor that develops in the brain stem (Posterior part of the brain, which comprises three parts Midbrain, Pons, Medulla Oblongata. Brainstem controls the vital function like heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and swallowing) is known as Brainstem Glioma.


These types of tumors do not usually spread outside the brain and spinal cord and rarely affect other organs. These tumors can be grade I-IV. Children and young adults are mostly diagnosed with Brainstem Glioma, and they are the second most common type of cancer found in children.

Types of Brainstem Glioma


 Brainstem Glioma is of two types:

  • DIPG

    A diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is a fast-growing grade IV tumor developed in the Pons. This tumor spread out very fast and can spread throughout the Brainstem. They are tough to treat.

  • Focal Brainstem Glioma

    Focal brainstem glioma is a slow-growing tumor that develops outside the Pons. They do not spread out as DIPG, but their growth inhibits to one area of the Brainstem

Signs and Symptoms of Brainstem Glioma


Signs and symptoms developed from Brainstem Glioma may vary from patient to patient depending on the tumor’s position, size of the tumor, growth, and grade of the tumor. The common symptoms that include:


  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vision problems
  • Loss of balance
  • Headache
  • Numbness, especially in the face
  • Fatigue
  • Depression 

Causes of Brainstem Glioma


The cause of Brainstem Glioma is still yet unknown. Researchers are unable to find any answer to what causes this Glioma.

Diagnosis of Brainstem Glioma

For diagnosing Brainstem Tumorinvestigating the medical history and specific Neuroimaging tests are performed:


  • Medical History: History of patients’ health, family medical history, past illness, and investigating signs and symptoms are also part of the diagnosis.
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): MRI is used to scan and identify abnormalities in the Brainstem’s specific area.


In rare cases, surgery and biopsy are performed.




Brainstem Glioma Treatment


Treatment options are opted depending on the position and grade of the tumor. The most common treatments are:

Radiation Therapy 

It is the most common and the initial treatment for almost any tumor and cancer. In Radiation therapy, high-energy x-rays or another form of radiation is used to destroy tumor cells. The treatment duration may vary depending on the size, location of the tumor and can last for one to 10 weeks. Radiation therapies are of two types.


  • External-beam Radiation Therapy

     It is the most common type of therapy where radiation is emitted from the machine outside the body.

  • Proton beam Therapy

     It is another type of external radiation therapy where the proton beam is used rather than x-rays.

  • Internal Radiation Therapy

     In this therapy, a patient is treated by implanting or inserting radioactive substances sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters placed directly into or near cancer.



In this treatment, certain drugs are used to stop cancer cells’ growth either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Sometimes chemotherapy is used along with Radiation therapy.


Surgery is not usually done in Brainstem Tumor because of complications in the brain’s vital parts. Surgery is chosen only when the tumor occurs in a particular area, or the tumor is contained within a small portion of the Brainstem seen on an MRI scan. Especially the grade I brainstem gliomas are selected for surgery.

Cerebrospinal fluid Diversion

In this treatment, fluid built up in the brain is drained out by shunt (a passage made with a long, thin tube to allow fluid to move from one part of the body to another).

Targeted Therapy

 In this type of treatment, different drugs are used, which targets a specific protein involved in the growth of cancer cells.

Brainstem Tumor


Brainstem Glioma is a serious condition and a dangerous form of cancer. If the treatment does reduce tumor growth, then it may impact the vital functioning of the brain.



Leave a Comment