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NCCN Guidelines for Patients



Brain Cancer – Gliomas, Version 1.2016


Glioma basics

Cancer’s threat

Cancer’s threat

Cancer cells don’t behave like normal cells in three

key ways. First, cancer cells grow more quickly and

live longer than normal cells. Normal cells grow

and then divide to form new cells when needed.

They also die when old or damaged as shown in

Figure 3

. In contrast, cancer cells make new cells

that aren’t needed and don’t die quickly when old or

damaged. Over time, cancer cells form a mass called

the primary tumor.

The second way cancer cells differ from normal cells

is that they can grow into (invade) normal tissue. If

not treated, most gliomas can invade normal tissue in

the brain or spine. More invasive cancers can cause

an organ like the brain not to work as it should. They

are also harder to remove during an operation.

Third, unlike normal cells, cancer cells can break

away from tissue and travel to other body sites. This

process is called metastasis. Some gliomas travel

in cerebrospinal fluid to other sites in the nervous

system. This is called Leptomeningeal disease.

Metastasis outside the nervous system is called

extraneural metastasis and is very rare.

The rate of growth and spread differs between

gliomas. Some gliomas grow slowly while others

grow fast. Fast-growing gliomas are described as

“aggressive” by doctors. In the next section, cancer

grades are described. The cancer grade tells which

gliomas are likely to grow fast.

Figure 3

Normal cell growth vs.

cancer cell growth

Normal cells increase in number

when they are needed and

die when old or damaged. In

contrast, cancer cells quickly

make new cells and live longer.

Some gliomas consist of cells

that very quickly increase in

number and crowd out normal


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