How Oligodendroglioma Is Treated

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Oligodendroglioma is a rare brain or spinal cord tumor. The treatment a person receives for oligodendrogliomas depends on the type, location, and grade of the tumor, as well as their overall health.

This article discusses the primary treatment options for oligodendroglioma, which include chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

Doctor holding brain scan images

FabrikaCr / Getty Images

Prescriptions 

Medications used to treat oligodendroglioma may include:

You may also be prescribed pain medications or anticonvulsants to manage symptoms while the tumor is being treated.

Chemotherapy 

Chemotherapy is administered to shrink or eliminate brain tumors. Your chemotherapy regimen may include:

  • Procarbazine, lomustine, and vincristine (PCV): A combination of these chemotherapy medications has been shown to improve overall survival in low-grade gliomas. A significant side effect of the PCV regimen is peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain in the hands and feet) coming from the vincristine in the regimen. Other side effects include bleeding, reduced immune function, bruising, nausea, and fatigue.
  • Temozolomide: This chemotherapeutic medication is often paired with radiation therapy to eliminate oligodendroglioma. Temozolomide is an oral medication (pill) that is typically given daily for five days in a row every 28 days, for six to 12 cycles. Common side effects include fatigue, nausea, and decreased appetite. Less commonly, the medication can cause a low platelet count, which may increase the risk of bleeding.

The chemotherapeutic medication you receive will be decided by your healthcare team based on the tumor grade and location, how much of the tumor remains after surgery, your age, and overall health status. These factors dictate not only the chemo regimen itself but the timing of when the treatment is used. Sometimes this means they are used together, while other times they occur one after the other.

Care Team

Care for oligodendrogliomas will be provided by a multidisciplinary team that may include an oncologist, neuro-oncologist, neurosurgeon, neuroradiologist, radiation therapist, and other specialists.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink or eliminate tumors.

External-beam radiation therapy is most commonly used to treat oligodendroglioma. High-energy rays are directed at the tumor using a machine called a linear accelerator.

Common types of radiation for oligodendroglioma include:

  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): IMRT is a form of radiation therapy that uses linear accelerators to deliver precise radiation to the tumor while minimizing the effects on the surrounding tissue. It has the ability to control the intensity of the radiation being used.
  • Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT): Using diagnostic images of your tumor that show its location and size, radiation oncologists will target the radiation rays directly to the tumor to reduce harm to healthy tissue surrounding it. Images of the brain will be taken daily to confirm correct positioning for the radiation beams and to track progress. In most cases, IGRT must be administered over a period of weeks or months before the cancer cells are fully eliminated. 
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRT): Used in some cases, SRT delivers high-dose radiation using small, focused beams targeted at the tumor. Unlike other types of radiation, SRT often only needs to be administered once to see the desired results. 

Surgery 

If the tumor is accessible, the first-line treatment for oligodendroglioma is surgery.

A neurosurgeon will perform a craniotomy to access and remove as much of the tumor tissue as possible. During a craniotomy, the neurosurgeon will remove a small section of the skull (called a bone flap) so they can view the brain and tumor. Once the tumor is removed, the surgeon will replace the bone flap and attach it to the skull.

After surgery, you may undergo chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to remove any parts of the tumor that remain after surgery.

Over-the-Counter Therapies

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications may help reduce some of the symptoms of brain tumor, but they cannot treat or cure the tumor. OTC pain medications, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) Aleve (naproxen) and Advil (ibuprofen), may help provide relief from headaches. 

Talk with your healthcare provider about the best options for pain relief before taking OTC medications, especially if you are currently in treatment or on other medications. Some OTC medications may increase your risk of bleeding, which is of particular concern if you are healing from surgery.

Lifestyle

While home remedies and lifestyle choices will not cure oligodendroglioma, making healthy choices can help support your overall health and well-being, making your body as strong and healthy as possible to recover from treatment.

Some lifestyle changes that may help include:

  • Eating a balanced diet: Eating whole, nutrient-dense foods can help you keep up your strength, boost energy levels, and lower your risk of infection. Aim to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. 
  • Physical activity: Try to get some exercise at least five days a week. Intense exercise may not be possible due to symptoms and the side effects of treatment. Start slow, and try walking to keep your body moving. Oligodendroglioma can create problems with balance and movement in some people. It’s important to listen to your body and understand your limitations. Pushing yourself to move can increase your risk of injury, so start with gentle stretches if walking is difficult.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) 

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a possible way to relieve symptoms of certain health conditions.

Alternative therapies will not treat or cure oligodendroglioma, but they may help manage symptoms. Recent studies suggest that alternative therapies may hold promise when used in conjunction with typical treatment methods.

  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine. It involves inserting very fine needles into points on the body to relieve symptoms caused by certain health conditions, including oligodendroglioma. It can provide relief for symptoms like nausea, headaches, and related pain.
  • Ginseng: Ginseng is an herbal remedy that has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine, thanks to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer effects. For pain relief, ginseng has also been shown to be comparable to NSAIDs.
  • Medical marijuana: Medical marijuana can provide relief from certain symptoms of brain tumors, including nausea, poor appetite, anxiety, and seizures.

While the promise of alternative medicines and complementary therapies often can be enticing, it’s important to follow your healthcare provider's recommendations and follow through with traditional treatments.

More research is needed on these therapies to determine their efficacy and safety in treating oligodendroglioma. Speak with your healthcare provider before trying any CAM treatment options.

Summary

Oligodendrogliomas are rare brain or spinal cord tumors. They are primarily treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. There are other therapies available to help with symptom relief, like pain medication and alternative medicine.

A Word From Verywell 

Going through treatments for oligodendroglioma can be both physically and mentally challenging. Taking care of your body by eating well and getting plenty of sleep can help your body stay strong while you undergo treatment. Leaning on others, like trusted friends and family members, may provide you with the support and emotional connection you need to get through treatment.

Was this page helpful?
7 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.
  1.  National Cancer Institute.  Oligodendroglioma diagnosis and treatment.

  2. Keogh RJ, Aslam R, Hennessy MA, et al. One year of procarbazine lomustine and vincristine is poorly tolerated in low grade glioma: a real world experience in a national neuro-oncology centre. BMC Cancer. 2021;21(1):140. doi:10.1186/s12885-021-07809-5

  3. The Brain Tumour Charity. What are the side effects of temozolomide?

  4. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Understanding radiation therapy.

  5. Thon N, Kreth FW, Tonn JC. The role of surgery in grade II/III oligodendroglial tumors. CNS Oncol. 2015;4(5):317-323. doi:10.2217/cns.15.26

  6. Jung J, Lee NK, Paik HD. Bioconversion, health benefits, and application of ginseng and red ginseng in dairy products. Food Sci Biotechnol. 2017;26(5):1155-1168. doi:10.1007/s10068-017-0159-2

  7. Lee YY, Saba E, Irfan M, et al. The anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive effects of Korean black ginseng. Phytomedicine. 2019;54:169-181. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2018.09.186