How Oligodendroglioma Is Diagnosed

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Oligodendroglioma is a rare type of tumor found in the brain or spinal cord. Imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans can detect an oligodendroglioma. A biopsy (sampling of tumor tissue) is required for an accurate diagnosis and to establish the grade of the tumor. 

This article discusses the options for diagnosing oligodendroglioma.

Doctor looking at brain scan

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Self-Checks

There is no self-check or at-home testing available to diagnose an oligodendroglioma.

Experiencing symptoms is the first step to getting a diagnosis. Though symptoms may vary depending on the size and location of the tumor, symptoms of an oligodendroglioma may include:

  • Seizures
  • Changes in personality and behavior
  • Headaches
  • Partial vision loss
  • Language issues
  • Memory and thinking problems
  • Problems with balance and movement
  • Unexplained weakness 

If you are experiencing symptoms of oligodendroglioma, see your healthcare provider.

Oligodendroglioma symptoms are similar to those of other brain tumors, so your healthcare provider will need to perform a physical examination and order diagnostic imaging tests in order to provide an accurate diagnosis.

Physical Examination 

As a first step toward diagnosing oligodendroglioma, you will be referred to a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in the central nervous system. They will ask about your medical history, the symptoms you are experiencing, and your family history.

During the neurological exam, your provider will ask you questions to assess your cognitive function. They will check your reflexes, balance, coordination, and muscle strength. They may also examine your hearing and vision to look for for abnormalities, such as swelling at the back of your eyes.

Imaging 

Imaging tests can help your healthcare provider identify the presence of an oligodendroglioma, and determine the location and size of the tumor. The imaging tests used include:

  • Computed tomography (CT): CT scans provide images of the skull as well as the presence of any bleeding (hemorrhages), cysts, and tumor calcifications, which are commonly seen in oligodendrogliomas.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Considered the gold standard for diagnosing oligodendrogliomas, MRIs show the exact size and location of the tumor. The tumors typically have well-defined borders and may cause swelling in the tissues surrounding them.

Oligodendrogliomas typically contain calcifications (mineral deposits) that are visible on imaging tests and help providers differentiate an oligodendroglioma from other brain tumors.

Labs and Tests 

While imaging tests can detect the presence of an oligodendroglioma, a sample of the tumor tissue is required to provide an accurate diagnosis and establish the grade of the tumor. 

In order to take a tissue sample from the tumor, your healthcare provider will perform a biopsy. This involves using a needle to take a sample from a small hole in the skull (known as a stereotactic biopsy) to confirm the diagnosis. The tissue will be sent to a laboratory, where it will be analyzed under a microscope to determine the type and grade of tumor.

Types of Oligodendrogliomas

Tumors are graded according to the growth, speed, and ability to spread to nearby tissues. Oligodendrogliomas are grouped into two grades, including:

  • Grade 2: These low-grade, slow-growing tumors are benign (noncancerous). They are called oligodendrogliomas. In some cases, it may take years for grade 2 tumors to cause noticeable symptoms. 
  • Grade 3: These are called anaplastic oligodendrogliomas. These are fast-growing, malignant (cancerous) tumors.

Differential Diagnosis

Differential diagnosis considers various types of tumors that could be causing symptoms. Many types of brain tumors cause similar symptoms, including headaches and seizures.

Some tumors, such as low-grade diffuse astrocytoma, ganglioglioma, dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial, and pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma, present similarly to oligodendroglioma. 

This is why imaging tests are an important part of providing an accurate diagnosis of oligodendroglioma. Imaging tests can help healthcare providers identify tumor types. Neurologists and radiologists look for certain indicators that help identify oligodendrogliomas, such as calcification.

Summary 

To diagnose an oligodendroglioma, healthcare providers will ask about your symptoms and conduct physical and neurological examinations. Imaging tests, including CT scans and MRIs, are used to locate and identify oligodendrogliomas. A biopsy will be done to help determine the grade of the tumor and the next steps for treatment.

A Word From Verywell 

Being diagnosed with a brain tumor like oligodendroglioma can be frightening, but there is hope. Thanks to advancements in cancer treatment, the prognosis for this type of brain tumor is good. See your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any symptoms. Getting an early and accurate diagnosis can ensure you get the appropriate treatment and improve your prognosis.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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