The Basics about DIPG
DIPG stands for Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. Now you know why they abbreviate it! You can learn a lot about the disease just by breaking down and defining each word in the name.
Diffuse: means that the tumor cells grow out into healthy cells, so basically it mixes in with healthy tissue. That is part of what makes it impossible to remove.
Intrinsic: just indicates that it originated from the body, not an outside source.
Pontine: describes where the tumor is, the Pons. If you don't know, the Pons controls many things like breathing, balance, bladder control and sleeping. As you can imagine, pressure on these nerves becomes very dangerous as it impacts these vital actions of the brain stem.
Glioma: is a word that describes the type of tumor it is, that it originates in the glial cells. Glial cells make up the white matter in the brain that support and surround the neurons. There are many types of brain gliomas, each affecting different parts of the brain.
DIPG primarily affects children, typically between the ages of 5 and 7. There are only about 100-150 new diagnoses of DIPG each year in the United States, so it is extremely rare. Compare it to Leukemia, in which there are about 2500 children who are diagnosed each year. Unlike many pediatric cancers, there has been very little progress in treatments for DIPG over the last 30 years. That is a discouraging reality for parents to hear when their child is diagnosed. There is a small percentage who make it past a year; in fact, only 10% of the children with DIPG survive 2 years. These are poor odds and very important reasons to keep fighting for a cure!