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  • A ganglioglioma is low-grade tumor of mixed cell type. This type of tumor contains properties of both glial cells (responsible for providing the structural support of the central nervous system) and neuronal cells (the functioning component of the central nervous system). These tumors are rare. They occur most commonly in the cerebrum (the largest and upper most section of the brain), but may occur in any part of the brain and spinal cord. These tumors may rarely undergo transformation into a higher grade, more malignant tumor.

    As you read further, you will find general information about gangliogliomas. If you would like to view summary information about brain tumors first, see the overview on brain tumors.



  • What causes a ganglioglioma? 

    Children with certain genetic syndromes, including neurofibromatosis type I and tuberous sclerosis, are at higher risk of developing tumors of glial origin, including gangliogliomas. The vast majority of children with gangliogliomas, however, develop these tumors spontaneously, meaning there is no identifiable cause. 

    What are the symptoms of a ganglioglioma? 

    Due to the relative slow growth rate of gangliogliomas, children with these tumors tend to present to the doctor with symptoms that have been occurring for many months. Some children, however, will have a more sudden onset of symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of a ganglioglioma, however each child may experience symptoms differently.

    Common symptoms may include: 

    • increased pressure within the brain
    • headache (generally upon awakening in the morning)
    • vomiting
    • fatigue
    • seizures
    • weakness on one side of the body

    The symptoms of a brain tumor may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

  • Diagnostic procedures for a ganglioglioma may include: 

    • physical examination - the child may demonstrate evidence of increased pressure in the brain
    • computerized tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays. For ganglioglioma, a CT scan of the brain is usually done.
    • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. For ganglioglioma, an MRI of the brain and spine is usually done, however gangliogliomas of the brain rarely spread to the spine.
    • electroencephalogram (EEG) - for children experiencing seizures, this procedure records the brain's continuous, electrical activity by means of electrodes attached to the scalp, and helps identify and localize seizure activity to a particular section of the brain
    • biopsy -a tissue sample from the tumor will be taken through a needle during a simple surgical procedure performed by a surgeon to confirm the diagnosis
  • Specific treatment for a ganglioglioma will be determined by your child's physician based on:   

    • your child's age, overall health, and medical history
    • type, location, and size of the tumor
    • extent of the disease
    • your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
    • how your child's doctors expects the disease to progress
    • your opinion or preference

    Treatment may include (alone or in combination): 

    • surgery - the primary treatment is maximum surgical removal of the tumor. Tumors that are completely removed may not require further therapy other than serial MRIs to monitor for tumor re-growth.
    • radiation therapy - for tumors that are incompletely removed and then increase in size or for tumors that recur, the recommended treatment is radiation therapy to the site of the tumor. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays (radiation) from a specialized machine to damage or kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.

    How are side effects managed?    

    Children with gangligliomas may have side effects related to the tumor itself and its treatment. Symptoms at the time of diagnosis related to increased pressure within the brain, such as headache, vomiting and lethargy, and/or from compression of the nerves that control movement of the extremities, are often relieved by surgical debulking of the tumor. Dexamethasone, an oral steroid, is often used, especially in the post-operative period, to assist in controlling symptoms of increased pressure within the brain, as well as any additional tissue swelling that may occur post-operatively.

    Radiation therapy may cause swelling related to tissue inflammation. This inflammation may lead to symptoms of headache or difficulty with coordination. These symptoms, if significant, may be treated with the oral medication dexamethasone.

    Children with seizures are treated with anti-seizure medications to control or, in some cases, eliminate these symptoms.

    What is the expected outcome after treatment for ganglioglioma? 

    Gangliogliomas are associated with a high rate of cure. Data suggest a 20-year survival rate of approximately 80 percent. Greater degree of surgical removal is associated with a higher rate of cure. 

    What about progressive or recurrent disease? 

    The recommended treatment for progressive/recurrent ganglioglioma is radiation therapy. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is one of nine institutes in the nation belonging to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium. The consortium is dedicated to the development of new and innovative treatments for children with progressive/recurrent brain tumors not responsive to standard therapies. Children with progressive/recurrent ganglioglioma would be eligible for a number of experimental therapies available through the consortium.

  • Research & Innovation

    Boston Children's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are conducting numerous research studies that will help clinicians better understand and treat ganglioglioma. For more information on current research, see the Brain Tumor Program.

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