Oligodendrogliomas – Information & Support

An Oligodendroglioma is a type of glioma. A glioma is a type of brain cancer that starts in the glial cells of the brain. These cells are responsible for providing support and protection to the nervous system.

  •  Gliomas are named after the part of the brain they start in.
  • It is called an Oligodendroglioma because it develops in the cells known as oligodendrocytes.
  • Oligodendrogliomas are most common in young to middle-aged adults.

There are two different types of Oligodendrogliomas:

  • Slow growing, well-differentiated tumours.
  • Anaplastic oligodendrogliomas, which are faster growing tumours.

What causes an oligodendroglioma?

The causes of oligodendrogliomas is unknown. This is the case with lots of brain tumours.

What are the symptoms?

Oligodendroglioma’s can develop in different parts of the brain and therefore can cause different types of symptoms.

Some of these may include:

  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Problems seeing
  • Changes in personality and/or behaviour
  • Paralysis of one side of the body
  • Problems with speech and coordination

TIP: If you have any of these symptoms you should have them checked by your doctor – but remember, they are common to many illnesses other than an oligodendroglioma.

Specialised further testing may be necessary, but will depend on the symptoms. These may include:

  • Vision tests- specifically testing the patients vision ‘sharpness’ and field of vision.
  • Hearing tests

If the results of the tests show the presence of an oligodendroglioma, a referral will be made to a doctor who specialises in the treatment of diseases of the brain, (called a neurologist), a neurosurgeon (a brain surgeon) and an oncologist (a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with chemotherapy).


Once the cancer is diagnosed, it will be graded. This means that cells will be looked at under a microscope and the rate in which they grow will be determined.

There are two grades of Oligodendrogliomas:

  • Grade 2- Low grade: slow growing
  • Grade 3- anaplastic: fast growing

(There is no Grade 1.)

A team of doctors and other staff at the hospital will plan the treatment. It will depend on the size of the tumour and where it is.

Sometimes there is an excess build up of pressure in the skull which needs to be reduced before treatment can commence. In this case, steroids may be given to decrease swelling around the tumour. If the excess pressure is due to a build up of cerebrospinal fluid (fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and brain), a shunt (small tube) may be inserted to drain excess fluid. This is done under general anaesthetic.

Treatment may be coordinated by an oncologist (a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with chemotherapy) a neurosurgeon (a surgeon who specialises in brain surgery) and a radiologist (a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with radiation).

Treatment may involve:

  • Surgery
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemotherapy

Surgery for an oligodendroglioma:

In general, surgery is the main treatment for an oligodendroglioma. The size and location of the tumour will determine whether or not further treatment will be required and if it is possible for the whole tumour to be removed. In some cases, surgery is not possible as there is a risk of damaging the rest of the brain. In this case the doctor will proceed with other forms of treatment.

For more information about surgery, go to our surgery page.

Radiotherapy for an oligodendroglioma:

Radiotherapy may be used to destroy any remaining tumour that is not removed through surgery. It also may be used on its own if surgery is not an option. Although radiotherapy is usually given as an external treatment, it may also be given in this case as radioactive implants which are small radioactive metal objects. These can be placed inside the tumour during an operation.

For more information about radiotherapy, go to our radiotherapy page.

Chemotherapy for an oligodendroglioma:

Chemotherapy may be used as the sole treatment for an oligodendroglioma, especially to treat anaplastic oligodendrogliomas (high grade tumours). It may also be given to:

  • Shrink the tumour before radiotherapy.
  • When/if it comes back.
  • After radiotherapy.

For more information about chemotherapy, go to our chemotherapy page.

You can find out more about the side effects of the treatments for an oligodendroglioma here.


Join Canteen’s online community to chat with other young people about oligodendrogliomas, their treatment… or anything really.