Michelle Badash, MS
Astrocytoma is type of cancerous brain tumor. This type of tumor begins from small, star-shaped cells in the brain called astrocytes. Astrocytes are one of several types of supporting cells in the brain. These types of cells are called glial cells. An astrocytoma is a type of the larger group of brain tumors called gliomas.
Astrocytoma may occur anywhere in the brain, but particularly the cerebrum in adults and the optic nerves in children.
The exact cause is unknown. Some possible causes of brain tumors include:
The exact risk factors for astrocytomas have not been identified. There is an increased chance with:
The first symptoms of any brain tumor can be caused as the tumor grows. The growth can increase pressure in the brain. Symptoms may include:
Symptoms will vary depending on the location of the tumor. For example:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your doctor may need to look at pictures of your brain. This can be done with:
You may also have biopsy/resection to remove a sample of brain tissue to test it for cancer cells.
A specialist will determine the grade of the tumor. Astrocytomas are graded from I to IV. These grades indicate the outlook and rate of tumor growth.
Treatment is based on the location, size, and grade of the tumor. Treatment may include:
Surgery involves the removal of as much of the tumor as possible. High grade tumors are treated with surgery. Surgery is followed by radiation or chemotherapy to help prevent further spreading.
involves the use of radiation to kill cancer cells or shrink the tumor. Radiation therapy may be:
is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms, including pill, injection, and a tube called a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream. They travel through the body destroying mostly cancer cells. Some healthy cells are also destroyed.
There are no current guidelines to prevent an astrocytoma because the cause is unknown.
American Brain Tumor Association
American Cancer Society
Brain Tumor Foundation of Canada
Canadian Cancer Society
Astrocytoma. American Brain Tumor Association website. Available at: http://www.abta.org/brain-tumor-information/types-of-tumors/astrocytoma.html. Accessed September 6, 2016.
General information about adult primary central nervous (CNS) tumors. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.gov/types/brain/hp/adult-brain-treatment-pdq. Updated January 27, 2016. Accessed September 6, 2016.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
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