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. Some studies suggest the following risk factors increase your chance of this tumor:
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:
The doctor will ask 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 through:
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 spread.
Radiation therapy involves the use of radiation to kill cancer cells or shrink the tumor. Radiation may be:
Chemotherapy 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.
American Brain Tumor Association
American Cancer Society
Brain Tumor Foundation of Canada
Canadian Cancer Society
Astrocytoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 13, 2013. Accessed June 20, 2013.
General information about adult brain tumors. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/adultbrain/HealthProfessional. Updated May 14, 2013. Accessed June 20, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2014 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.