An astrocytoma is a form of glioma tumor which originates in the astrocytes (star-shaped cells in the brain). An astrocytoma has the potential not to grow for a long period of time, or to grow slowly.
Astrocytoma symptoms are generally associated with the result of growing pressure inside of the patient's skull. Some possible symptoms may include:
Altered development or growth (children)
Changes in mental state
Drowsiness and lethargy
Pain that can become more intense while coughing
Poor balance (ataxia)
Speaking difficulties (aphasia)
View more information on possible symptoms.
Bear in mind that the presence of these symptoms does not necessarily indicate an astrocytoma, since they can be brought on by other underlying causes. Additionally, astrocytomas may be asymptomatic (without symptoms), so the lack of any of these does not mean that an astrocytoma is not possibly there.
Astrocytoma causes are currently unknown. There are some supposed risk factors, such as genetic factors. For instance, children with neurofibromatosis are thought to have a higher risk of developing an astrocytoma.
A diagnosis of an astrocytoma is made by a doctor or medical professional. Imaging tests which may be used include:
Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT)
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Once a tumor is detected, a biopsy is taken. In some cases this may be done as a separate procedure, while in others it is performed during the surgery to remove the tumor. Staging of the tumor is done through examination of the sample removed during biopsy.
Astrocytoma treatment varies depending upon the particular case, the individual, whether the tumor is benign or malignant (cancer), etc. Surgery is the most common treatment method, although radiation treatment, chemotherapy, and other options may be used in some instances.
Different grading systems are used for classification of astrocytomas. You can read basic information on some of the potential grades.