Cranial Conditions

Astrocytoma

Astrocytoma

Astrocytomas are a type of brain tumor that affect star-shaped cells in the brain. Read this article to learn more:

What is an Astrocytoma?

Gliomas are brain tumors that arise from supportive cells known as glial or neuroglial cells. Astrocytomas, a type of glioma, develop from star-shaped cells called astrocytes within the tissues supporting the brain and spinal cord. While astrocytomas rarely occur in the spinal cord.

Astrocytomas are categorized based on their characteristics, often classified as low, intermediate, or high grade, depending on their growth rate or aggressiveness.

They are also graded on a four-tiered scale from 1 to 4, with 4 being the most aggressive. Grade 1 astrocytomas grow slowly without infiltrating nearby tissue, although they can reach substantial size. While rare, they typically respond well to treatment. Grade 2 astrocytomas resemble Grade 1 in their slow growth and treatability, but they can invade nearby brain tissue. Successful treatment of Grade 2 tumors depends on their location within the brain, yet untreated Grade 2 astrocytomas may become more aggressive. Grade 3 astrocytomas are more aggressive and invasive than Grade 2. Successfully treating Grade 3 tumors, also known as anaplastic astrocytomas, can be challenging. Grade 4 astrocytomas, also referred to as glioblastomas or GBMs, are the most aggressive, invasive, common, and difficult to treat among the four types.

What causes Astrocytoma?

A tumor results from abnormal cell multiplication that lacks any physiological function. Cell division is regulated by tumor suppressor genes, which also aid in DNA damage repair. Tumor suppressor genes constantly counteract cancer-causing genes known as oncogenes. When tumor suppressor genes malfunction due to mutations affecting protein encoding, uncontrolled cell division and growth may lead to tumor development.

The body’s natural defense system ideally detects and eliminates abnormal cells. However, tumors may produce substances hindering the immune system from recognizing the abnormality of tumor cells, allowing the tumor cells to surpass internal and external growth checks.

The precise causes of astrocytomas are not yet fully understood, but certain genetic conditions like neurofibromatosis may elevate the risk of this condition.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of astrocytoma vary depending on location, size, and type, encompassing headaches, numbness, nausea, seizures, or weakness. Cognitive or behavioral changes may also indicate astrocytomas.

Diagnosis typically involves reviewing medical history, conducting physical and neurological exams. Biopsy or imaging studies such as MRI or CT scans are employed to confirm the diagnosis and devise the optimal treatment plan.

How is Astrocytoma treated?

Successful treatment of astrocytomas hinges on tumor classification, location, and the patient’s age and health. Treatment options may entail radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or surgical excision.

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