What Is an Astrocytoma?

An astrocytoma is a type of tumor that develops in the brain or spine. It is formed of cells called astrocytes, which are a type of glial cell that support the neurons in the brain. Astrocytomas may be classified as low-grade, moderate-grade, or high-grade, depending on the aggressiveness of the tumor.

Astrocytomas can be primary tumors, meaning they develop from brain or spine tissue, or they can be secondary tumors, which means they formed from cancer cells that spread from elsewhere in the body. They can grow in different parts of the central nervous system and cause different kinds of symptoms, depending on their size and location.

Symptoms of Astrocytoma

Common signs and symptoms of astrocytoma include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Personality or behavioral changes
  • Vision changes
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty balancing or walking

These symptoms may vary depending on the size and location of the tumor. For example, a tumor located in the cerebellum may cause problems with balance, coordination, and speech. A tumor located in the frontal lobe may cause personality changes or behavioral problems, while a tumor located in the temporal lobe may cause seizures or vision problems.

Diagnosis of Astrocytoma

Astrocytomas are usually diagnosed through a neurological examination, a review of symptoms, and an imaging test, such as an MRI scan. In some cases, a biopsy may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. During a biopsy, a small sample of tissue is taken from the tumor and sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Treatment of Astrocytoma

Treatment for astrocytoma depends on a variety of factors, such as the size and location of the tumor, as well as your overall health. Treatment may include:

  • Surgery: A partial or full removal of the tumor may be needed to ensure all of the cancerous cells are removed.
  • Radiation Therapy: An external beam of radiation is used to destroy cancer cells in the brain or spine.
  • Chemotherapy: A type of medication may be used to kill cancerous cells.

In some cases, a combination of these treatments may be used. It’s important to speak with your doctor about the potential risks and benefits of each treatment option.