Neuronal and Mixed Neuronal-Glial Tumors
What are neuronal and mixed neuronal-glial tumors?
Neuronal and mixed neuronal-glial
tumors are a group of rare tumors that occur in the brain or spinal cord. Together, your
brain and spinal cord make up your central nervous system (CNS). Many of these tumors
are not cancerous (benign). Benign means that the growth does not spread to other parts
of the body. But these tumors can be dangerous. They can cause seizures or other
problems by pressing against surrounding brain tissue.
Your brain and spinal cord contain many neurons and other supporting cells (such as glial cells). The neurons are specialized nerve cells that send messages within the CNS and the rest of your body. These neurons “talk” to each other by using chemical and electrical signals. Glial cells do not send nerve signals but carry out many other jobs in your brain, such as insulating and providing support to the neurons.
A tumor is an abnormal growth of
cells. Most brain tumors come from the glial cells or other non-neuronal cells in the
CNS. Neuronal tumors are a rare group of brain tumors made of abnormal neurons. Mixed
neuronal-glial tumors are a rare group of brain tumors that have abnormal neuron cells
along with glial cells.
Healthcare providers who specialize
in examining tumor cells under a microscope normally grade them on a scale from I to IV.
Grading is based on how abnormal the cells look. The cells from a grade I tumor look
almost normal and grow slowly, while a grade IV tumor tends to grow very quickly.
Most neuronal and mixed
neuronal-glial tumors are low grade (grade I or II) and tend to grow slowly. The cells
look almost normal. Healthcare providers often remove low-grade tumors surgically.
There is one subtype of neuronal tumor that is grade III. It is called anaplastic ganglioglioma. This type tends to grow more quickly than most other neuronal tumors. It may need more aggressive treatment with chemotherapy and radiation in addition to surgery.
Overall, neuronal and mixed neuronal-glial tumors tend to be slow growing.
Some neuronal and mixed neuronal-glial tumors happen more often in children or teens than in adults. Other types (such as the cerebellar liponeurocytoma) are more common in older adults. Almost any of these tumors can occur in people of any age.
What causes neuronal and mixed neuronal-glial tumors?
Experts do not yet know what causes
neuronal and mixed neuronal-glial tumors to develop. Some theories suggest links to gene
mutations, environmental toxins, or infections (such as by viruses). But, the possible
risk factors for these tumors are not clear.
What are the symptoms of neuronal and mixed neuronal-glial tumors?
Where the tumor is located in the brain and its size determine what symptoms you may have. A neuronal or a mixed neuronal-glial tumor may cause symptoms related to the part of the brain that it grows in.
In general, symptoms may
- Seizures (often the first
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness and balance problems
- Trouble walking
- Eye problems
- Personality or thinking changes
- Sleepiness or inability to stay awake
How are neuronal and mixed neuronal-glial tumors diagnosed?
Healthcare providers often take a
health history, asking about your recent symptoms, past health problems, and your family
health history. You will need a thorough physical exam, including a nervous system exam.
Your healthcare provider will likely check your coordination and reflexes and do several
nervous system tests. If a healthcare provider suspects a brain tumor, he or she will
often want to look at images of your brain. You may need:
- Biopsy of the tumor tissue to look at it for type and grade
- Blood and urine tests
- CT scans
- MRI scans of your brain and spinal cord
You may first see your primary
healthcare provider and then get a referral to a specialist. This healthcare provider
should be an expert in diagnosing and treating diseases of the brain, such as a
neurologist, neurosurgeon, or neuro-oncologist.
How are neuronal and mixed neuronal-glial tumors treated?
The standard treatment for these
tumors is to remove them surgically. In many cases, treatment may only be removing the
tumor. If the tumor is in a spot where it is not possible to remove it completely,
radiation therapy and chemotherapy are other options.
You can work with your care team to
talk about the best treatment plan for you. You will likely need regular follow-ups with
your healthcare provider, including repeated imaging tests to check whether the tumor
comes back. It is very important to keep follow-up appointments so that your care team
can watch for any changes.
What are possible complications of neuronal and mixed
Seizures are the most common
nervous system symptoms. In some cases, the tumor may be blocking drainage of the
cerebrospinal fluid from your brain. This causes a buildup of fluid and increases the
pressure within your brain. If this happens, you may need surgery to insert a tube to
drain excess fluid and lower the pressure. After removal of the tumor, this problem
often goes away.
There is a chance the tumor may
grow back if you don’t have it all removed. In very rare cases, a tumor might change
into a higher-grade form.
Key points about neuronal and mixed neuronal-glial
Neuronal and mixed neuronal-glial tumors are rare tumors of the brain or spinal cord. These tumors include abnormal nerve cells. Some key points include:
- Most of these tumors are low grade (grade I or grade II) and tend to grow slowly.
- The first symptoms may be seizures.
Headaches, nausea, or other symptoms may occur.
- Surgery to remove the tumor is often
the main treatment. Radiation and chemotherapy are also options in some cases.
- Removing all of the tumor often
results in a good long-term outcome.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your healthcare provider tells you.
- At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
- Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.
Online Medical Reviewer:
Anne Fetterman RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer:
Joseph Campellone MD
Online Medical Reviewer:
Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed:
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