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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Gliomatosis cerebri

See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

Is gliomatosis cerebri a disease that can be passed from generation to generation or that can be carried by one person and passed to another later on? My great aunt has been diagnosed with this cancer and I worry that my child might inherit it.

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is gliomatosis cerebri?

Gliomatosis cerebri is a type of malignant (cancerous) brain tumor called a glioblastoma that develops from a specific type of brain cell called an astrocyte.[1] It involves at least three sections (lobes) within the main part of the brain (cerebrum). It may also affect both sides of the cerebrum as well as the nerve cells within the brain (grey matter). There are two types of gliomatosis cerebri. Type 1 (classic form) is characterized by scattered and widespread tumor cells and no apparent mass or tumor, while type 2 has similar characteristics in addition to a detectable mass or tumor.[2] Signs and symptoms of gliomatosis cerebri may include personality changes, memory disturbance, headaches, and seizures.[3] Because this type of cancer can be found in many areas of the brain, it can be challenging to treat. Treatment might include surgery to remove areas of the brain affected (when possible), radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.[2]
Last updated: 7/21/2016

Can gliomatosis cerebri be passed through families?

Currently, the underlying cause of gliomatosis cerebri is poorly understood.[1] After an extensive search of the medical literature we were unable to find information that would suggest that this type of cancer tends to run in families. Still we have provided you with some general information on genes and cancer that we hope will help you better understand the role gene mutations may play in cancer and how gene mutations can occur.
Last updated: 7/20/2016

What is cancer?

Cancer occurs when cells in the body become abnormal, grow out of control, and have the ability to spread to other parts of the body (metastasize). Cancer is a result of uncontrolled cell division and growth.[4]
Last updated: 7/20/2016

What causes cancer?

Cancer is caused by a number of things, including gene mutations, environmental exposures, medical factors, and lifestyle factors.
Last updated: 3/5/2009

What are gene mutations?

A gene mutation is a permanent change in the DNA sequence that makes up a gene, such that the sequence is different from what is found in most individuals. Our genes provide instructions that tell our bodies how to grow and function. Mutations can vary in size and can be found anywhere within our DNA.[5]
Last updated: 7/21/2016

How do gene mutations occur?

Gene mutations occur in two ways: they can be inherited from a parent or acquired during a person’s lifetime. Mutations that are passed from parent to child are called hereditary mutations. This type of mutation is present throughout a person’s life in virtually every cell in the body. Acquired mutations occur in the DNA of individual cells at some time during a person’s life. These changes can be caused by environmental factors such as ultraviolet radiation from the sun, or can occur if a mistake is made as DNA copies itself during cell division. Acquired mutations cannot be passed on to the next generation.[5]

Both hereditary gene mutations and acquired gene mutations can contribute to the cause of cancer.[5]

The Genetics Home Reference, a website maintained by the National Library of Medicine, provides detailed information on gene mutations, which can be viewed by clicking here
Last updated: 7/21/2016

How can I learn more about how gene mutations can contribute to cancer?

You can obtain more information on cancer genetics by calling the National Cancer Institute Cancer Information Service (CIS) toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) or by visiting their website. CIS provides the most current information on cancer for patients, health professionals, and the general public.

Public Inquiries Office
Cancer Information Service Branch
Room 3036A
6116 Executive Blvd., MSC 8322
Bethesda, MD 20892-8322
Toll free:  800-4-CANCER
Web site:

Last updated: 7/21/2016

Who can I talk to if I think cancer may be running in my family?

If you believe cancer may be running in your family, we recommend that you speak with your healthcare provider. You can also consider speaking with a genetics professional. Genetics professionals are a source of information for individuals and families regarding genetic diagnosis, natural history, treatment, mode of inheritance, and genetic risks to other family members.

To find a medical professional who specializes in genetics, you can ask your doctor for a referral or you can search for one yourself. Online directories are provided by GeneTests, the American College of Medical Genetics, and the National Society of Genetic Counselors. If you need additional help, contact a GARD Information Specialist. You can also learn more about genetic consultations from Genetics Home Reference.
Last updated: 7/21/2016

See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.