Optic Nerve Glioma | Diagnosis & Treatment

How are optic nerve gliomas diagnosed?

The first step in treating your child is forming an accurate and complete diagnosis. Optic nerve gliomas can move throughout different parts of the brain and spine. There is a blood brain barrier that serves to keep infections out and also ends up keeping tumors in. It is very rare, below 5 percent of the time, for the glioma to move beyond the brain and spine.

Optic nerve gliomas are typically diagnosed using a combination of imaging and vision testing. Your child's doctor will likely order tests including:

There may be other diagnostic tests that your doctor will discuss with you depending on your child's individual situation. After we complete all necessary tests we will meet with you and your family to discuss the results, and outline possible treatment options.

What are the treatment options for optic nerve gliomas?

Your child's physician will determine a specific course of treatment based on several factors, including:

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

Most often, optic nerve glioma is treated with chemotherapy — a drug treatment that works by interfering with the cancer cell's ability to grow or reproduce — to shrink the tumor and stabilize or improve vision.

If the tumor has affected your child's endocrine system (a network of gland controlling hormones), he or she may also need hormone replacement therapy, possibly for the rest of their life.

While surgery is not commonly performed for this type of brain tumor, it can sometimes relieve symptoms and/or improve vision. Our expert pediatric neural surgeons have a wealth of experience in determining whether surgery is the right option.

Most of the time, chemotherapy can stop the progression of optic nerve gliomas. But if your child's tumor is resistant to chemotherapy, radiation may also be an option.