Astrocytoma is type of brain tumor. It is a malignant tumor, cancer. This type of tumor arises from small, star-shaped cells in the brain. They are called astrocytes. Astrocytes are one of several types of supporting cells in the brain. These type of cells are called glial cells. An astrocytoma is a subtype of the larger group of brain tumors called gliomas.
Astrocytoma is the most common form of glioma. It may occur anywhere in the brain. It is most commonly found in:
The cerebrum in adults—the largest part of the brain
The cerebellum—a smaller part of the brain in the rear
Brainstem—connects to the spinal cord
Optic nerves in children—nerve that leads from the brain to the eye
A specialist will determine the grade of the tumor. Astrocytomas are graded from I to IV. These grades indicate the prognosis and rate of tumor growth.
Grades I and II—These low-grade astrocytomas grow slowly. They generally stay localized in an area of the brain. They are more commonly found in younger patients. Grade II astrocytomas can spread.
Grades III and IV—These high-grade tumors grow rapidly. They can spread throughout the brain and spinal cord. Aggressive treatment is needed. This is the most common type found in adults. Grade III tumors are called anaplastic astrocytoma. Grade IV tumors are called glioblastoma multiforme or GBM.
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. If the tumor is high grade, surgery will often be followed by radiation or chemotherapy to help prevent further spread.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms including pill, injection, and via a catheter (IV or port). The drugs enter the bloodstream. They travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells. Some healthy cells are killed as well.
There are no guidelines because the exact cause is not known. It has been suggested that the electromagnetic waves emitted from high-tension wires or even cell phone may increase the risk of developing brain tumors. To date, there is no scientific evidence supporting this theory.
Adjuvant systemic chemotherapy, following surgery and external beam radiotherapy, for adults with newly diagnosed malignant glioma.
National Guideline Clearinghouse website. Available at:
. Accessed October 12, 2005.
Cohen KJ, Broniscer A, Glod J. Pediatric glial tumors.
Curr Treat Options Oncol.
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