A glioma is a common type of tumor that originates in the brain or spine, but more often in the brain. It is called a glioma because it arises from glial cells. Gliomas make up about 30 percent of all brain and central nervous system tumors, and about 80 percent of all malignant brain tumors. The exact cause is unknown, but some acquired (not inherited) genetic mutations have been found in gliomas
The severity of a glioma is determined by its “grade,” or what the tumor cells look like under a microscope. Grade I is the least serious and grade IV is the most serious. Gliomas that are classified as low-grade (I or II) means they are relatively slow growing, and high-grade (III or IV) means they are malignant with fast growth and spread into normal brain tissue. High-grade gliomas almost always grow back even after complete surgical excision. Low-grade gliomas grow slowly, often over many years, and can be followed without treatment unless they grow and cause symptoms.
Malignant gliomas generally occur between the ages of 40-60, but can develop at any age. They are slightly more common in men than in women and more common in Caucasian people than in African-Americans.
Symptoms of glioma depend on which part of the central nervous system is affected. A brain glioma can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting, seizures, and cranial nerve disorders as a result of increased intracranial pressure. A glioma of the optic nerve can cause visual loss. Spinal cord gliomas can cause pain, weakness, or numbness in the extremities. Gliomas do not metastasize by the bloodstream; instead they spread through the cerebrospinal fluid and cause ‘drop metastases’ to the spinal cord. Symptoms of glioma often are slight at first..
Treatment for brain gliomas depends on the location, cell type, and grade of malignancy. Often, treatment is a combined approach, using surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Chemotherapeutic drugs that cross the blood-brain barrier also are being used for high-grade tumors.
Gliomas rarely are curable and prognosis is poor for individuals with grade III and IV tumors. The average survival time is approximately 12 months. Few individuals survive beyond three years. Of the 10,000 Americans diagnosed each year with malignant gliomas, about half are alive one year after diagnosis. About 25 percent survive two years.
Social Security Administration POMS: DI 23022.735 Glioma – Grades III and IV
Grades III and IV gliomas meet Social Security Administration (SSA) Medical Listings 13.13-A1 and 113.13 upon confirmed diagnosis, regardless of the effectiveness of treatment. Recurrent malignant gliomas meet Medical Listing 13.13-A2 upon confirmed diagnosis, regardless of grade and effectiveness of treatment. To establish disability under the guidelines of the SSA, required medical evidence includes a pathology report documenting the type and stage of your tumor, operative reports, if any, and medically appropriate imaging, such as MRIs and/or CT scans.
Grades III and IV gliomas are listed under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance Program, which was launched in 2008 to expedite certain disability claims. Applying for disability benefits under the Compassionate Allowance Program requires the same procedure every applicant must follow when applying for SSA disability benefits; however, you will be notified if your condition is being considered as a compassionate allowance.
Your representative can help expedite your disability claim if you have a diagnosis of grade III or IV glioma.