NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Brain Cancer – Gliomas, Version 1.2016
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
. 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.
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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