What is an Astrocytoma Tumor? 


What is an Astrocytoma Tumor?

Astrocytoma is the most common type of cancer that develops in the star-shaped cells called astrocytes in the brain and spinal cord.

Astrocytoma tumors are classified into four grades depending on how quickly they’re growing and where they are located.

What is an Astrocytoma Grade One?

A Grade I astrocytoma tends to be a tumor (mass of cells growing uncontrollably) that does not spread to the surrounding brain or spinal tissue. The most common Grade I astrocytoma is a pilocytic astrocytoma. Pilocytic astrocytoma is also called juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma (JPA). These tumors tend to grow slowly, but can get very large. Grade I astrocytoma account for only about 2% of all brain tumors. They are most common in children and teens.

What is Astrocytoma Grade Two?

A Grade II astrocytoma, also known as a diffuse astrocytoma, grows very slowly and doesn’t usually have well-define borders, as it tends to be an infiltrating tumor. Grade II astrocytoma is also called low-grade astrocytoma or diffuse astrocytoma and is most common in adults age 20 to 40 years old.

What is Astrocytoma Grade Three?

A Grade III astrocytoma grow much more quickly than a Grade II astrocytoma. It is also called anaplastic, or malignant, astrocytoma. Grade III astrocytoma most commonly develops in adults age 30 to 50 years old.

What is Astrocytoma Grade Four?

A Grade IV astrocytoma is more commonly known as glioblastoma. Glioblastoma, Grade IV astrocytoma, is the most aggressive type of brain tumor, meaning it grows the fastest and is likely to spread to other parts of the body. Glioblastomas are most common in men age 50 to 80 years old.

What Causes Astrocytoma?

Unfortunately, we aren’t sure what causes most astrocytoma to develop. Researchers are investigating possible genetic or environmental connections, but more research is needed.

What Are Symptoms of Astrocytoma?

Astrocytoma are a mass of cells taking up space in your skull or spine, putting pressure on your brain or spinal cord. The amount and severity of your symptoms depend on the size and location of the astrocytoma, but the symptoms of an astrocytoma may include:

  • Headaches that reoccur frequently or never go away
  • Blurred vision
  • Seizures
  • Memory loss
  • Frequent nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden or severe changes in behavior
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Loss of balance
  • Loss of feeling or weakness on one side of the body
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Depression

These symptoms can be the result of many other non-cancerous health issues. Only a professional healthcare provider can diagnose you with cancer, so please visit your primary care provider if you are concerned about your health, and for regular check ups.

How Are Astrocytoma Treated?

Treatment for an astrocytoma depends completely on the grade of the astrocytoma, its location and size, but it usually follows this order:

  • Surgery is performed to remove as much of the astrocytoma as possible first. Surgery is not used when the astrocytoma is in an area where surgery would be too risky. Sometimes, surgery is enough to remove all of a Grade I astrocytoma tumor. Higher grade tumors require more than just surgery.
  • Radiation is the next step if a neurosurgeon is not able to remove all of an astrocytoma. Radiation helps make sure all of the cancer cells that were not removed during surgery are killed.
  • For high grade astrocytoma, like anaplastic (Grade III) and glioblastoma (Grade IV), chemotherapy can be used before or after radiation if there is a concern that the astrocytoma has spread to another part of the body.

Sources: American Association of Neurological Surgeons,, Cleveland Clinic, WebMD