It hardly metastasizes and is usually a primary tumor rather than being a secondary metastatic deposit. A brain stem glioma is usually diagnosed before the age of 20 years but can be detected in early adulthood as well. But, in any event, due to its extremely vulnerable position, obtaining a complete cure or getting rid of the tumor is nearly impossible.
How does it present?
A child with a brain stem glioma will present with many type of symptoms and among them, early morning headache which usually resolves with vomiting, nausea and vomiting, balance and coordination difficulties, walking difficulties, vision and hearing problems, unusual sleepiness and varying degree of energy levels are few of the symptoms that are seen in clinical practice.
How is it diagnosed?
Once a tentative diagnosis is made through clinical findings and according to the history of the presenting symptoms, high resolution imaging studies can be used in order to make an accurate diagnosis. Thus, CT imaging and MRI scans would pin point the tumor to its exact location and would indicate to the clinician as to how he or she should proceed with the removal of such a tumor.
How can we confirm its malignant potential and treat?
Following confirming its presence, a needle biopsy can confirm the possibility of having cancerous cells within the tumor and if so, the surgeons will move in to remove the tumor as much as possible without causing damage to the vital tissues present in the region. If this fails or even if it is successful to a certain extent, a bout of chemotherapy and radiotherapy will follow to reduce the cancer cell load as much as possible.
What is its prognosis?
The prognosis of patients diagnosed of this condition is not so good and if not treated life expectancy is less than few months from the time of making a diagnosis. But, if treated adequately, these children can have a 37% one year survival, 20% 2 year survival and 13% 3 year survival depending on the tumor size, location, recurrence or else on its association with other neurological disorders.