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What is a ganglioglioma?

A ganglioglioma is low-grade tumor of mixed cell type. It is very rare and 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.

Gangliogliomas usually occur in the part of the brain that controls motor, sensory, and higher mental function, called the cerebrum, but can occur in any part of the brain or spinal cord. In rare cases, ganglioglioma may transform into a higher grade, more malignant tumor. Children with certain genetic syndromes, including neurofibromatosis 1 and tuberous sclerosis, are at higher risk of developing glial tumors, including gangliogliomas; however, most of these tumors develop spontaneously.

Ganglioglioma | Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of ganglioglioma?

Since gangliogliomas grow relatively slowly, a child may have been having symptoms for many months prior to diagnosis, or symptoms may appear more suddenly. Many children with gangliogliomas first present with seizures. Other symptoms are associated with increased pressure in the brain, including:

  • headache: generally upon awakening in the morning
  • nausea and vomiting: often worse in the morning and improving throughout the day
  • fatigue
  • weakness on one side of the body

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

Ganglioglioma | Diagnosis & Treatments

How is ganglioglioma diagnosed?

A physician may order a number of different tests to best diagnose the tumor. In addition to a physical exam, medical history and neurological exam (which tests reflexes, muscle strength, eye and mouth movement, coordination and alertness), those tests may include:

After all tests are completed, doctors will be able to outline the best treatment options.

What are the treatment options for ganglioglioma?

A child’s physician will determine a specific course of ganglioglioma treatment based on several factors. Some therapies will treat the tumor while others are intended to address complications of the disease or side effects of the treatment. Ganglioglioma treatments include:

Specific ganglioglioma treatments 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 and preference

The recommended treatment for progressive or recurrent ganglioglioma is radiation therapy. Clinical trials and experimental therapies are also available for children with recurrent tumors that are not responsive to standard therapies.

How we care for ganglioglioma

Children and adolescents with ganglioglioma are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through the Brain Tumor Center, one of the largest and most experienced pediatric brain tumor treatment programs in the world. Our brain tumor specialists have extensive expertise in treating all types of brain tumors, including ganglioglioma. Our patients receive care from neuro-oncologists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, and pediatric subspecialists.

Ganglioglioma | Programs & Services