An astrocytoma is a type of brain tumor. A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue in the brain.
The brain is part of the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS also includes the spinal cord. The main parts of the brain are:
Brain tumors start in the cells of the brain. They can be either of the following:
Brain tumors can occur at any age. Brain tumors that occur in infants and children are very different from adult brain tumors.
The most common type of brain tumor is a glioma. Gliomas begin from glial cells, which make up the supportive tissue of the brain (brainstem). Astrocytoma is a type of glioma. It forms in small star-shaped cells called astrocytes, a type of glial cells. It is the most common type of brain tumor in children. In a child, an astrocytoma is usually found at the base of the brain. It is usually low grade, which means slow-growing. A low-grade astrocytoma may not need treatment right away. But it should be watched carefully. This is because it could turn into a faster-growing tumor. Often, a biopsy or surgery is needed to confirm the diagnosis.
Most brain tumors are caused by abnormal genes or chromosomes. Researchers don’t know what causes them to be abnormal. Some chemicals may play a part in gene changes. Research is ongoing.
An astrocytoma can cause symptoms if it begins to grow into or press on an area of the brain. The most common symptoms of an astrocytoma are:
The symptoms of an astrocytoma can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The healthcare provider will ask about your child's health history and symptoms. He or she will examine your child. This will include a neurological exam. The exam tests reflexes, muscle strength, eye and mouth movement, and coordination. Your child's healthcare provider may refer your child to a cancer specialist (oncologist). Your child may have tests such as:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. If your child has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, you may want to talk with a second oncologist before treatment. Your health insurer may require this.
Treatment may include one or more of the below:
Other treatments may include:
With any cancer, how well a child is expected to recover (prognosis) varies. Keep in mind:
Talk with your child’s healthcare providers about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all treatments.
A child may have complications from the tumor or from treatment. These include:
A child with a brain tumor needs ongoing care. Your child will be seen by oncologists and other healthcare providers. These providers will treat any late effects of treatment. They will also watch for symptoms of the tumor returning. Your child will be checked with imaging tests and other tests. And your child may see other healthcare providers for problems from the tumor or from treatment. For example, your child may see an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) for vision problems.
Your child may need therapy to help with movement and muscle strength. This may be done by physical and occupational therapists. If your child's speech is affected, he or she may need help from a speech therapist. Your child may also need the help of other therapists for learning or emotional problems.
You can help your child manage his or her treatment in many ways. For example:
Call the healthcare provider if your child has:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
The University of Chicago Medicine
5841 S. Maryland Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637 | 773-702-1000
Appointments: Call UCM Connect at 1-888-824-0200