• Astrocytoma

    (Brain Tumor; Glioma)


    Astrocytoma is type of cancerous brain tumor. This type of tumor begins from small, star-shaped cells in the brain called astrocytes. Astrocytes are one of several types of supporting cells in the brain. These types of cells are called glial cells. An astrocytoma is a type of the larger group of brain tumors called gliomas.
    Astrocytoma may occur anywhere in the brain, but particularly the cerebrum in adults and the optic nerves in children.
    Brain Tumor
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    The exact cause is unknown. Some possible causes of brain tumors include:
    • Heredity
    • Certain occupations
    • Environmental factors
    • Viruses

    Risk Factors

    The exact risk factors for astrocytomas have not been identified. There is an increased chance with:
    • Genetic disorders, including neurofibromatosis and tuberous sclerosis
    • Occupational exposure from:
      • Radiation
      • Chemicals
      • Oil refining
      • Rubber manufacturing


    The first symptoms of any brain tumor can be caused as the tumor grows. The growth can increase pressure in the brain. Symptoms may include:
    • Headaches
    • Visual changes
    • Vomiting
    • Seizures
    • Personality changes
    • Problems with memory, thinking, and concentration
    • Problems with walking
    Symptoms will vary depending on the location of the tumor. For example:
    • Frontal lobe—Gradual changes in mood and personality, loss of muscle function on one side of the body
    • Temporal lobe—Problems with coordination, speech, and memory
    • Parietal lobe—Problems with sensation, writing, or fine motor skills
    • Cerebellum—Problems with coordination and balance
    • Occipital lobe—Problems with vision, visual hallucinations


    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
    Your doctor may need to look at pictures of your brain. This can be done with:
    You may also have biopsy/resection to remove a sample of brain tissue to test it for cancer cells.


    A specialist will determine the grade of the tumor. Astrocytomas are graded from I to IV. These grades indicate the outlook and rate of tumor growth.
    • Grades I and II—These low-grade astrocytomas grow slowly. They generally stay 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. High grade tumors are treated with surgery. Surgery is followed by radiation or chemotherapy to help prevent further spreading.

    Radiation Therapy

    Radiation therapy involves the use of radiation to kill cancer cells or shrink the tumor. Radiation therapy may be:
    • External—Radiation aimed at the tumor from a source outside the body.
    • Internal (brachytherapy)—Radioactive materials placed into the body near the cancer cells.


    Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms, including pill, injection, and a tube called a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream. They travel through the body destroying mostly cancer cells. Some healthy cells are also destroyed.


    There are no current guidelines to prevent an astrocytoma because the cause is unknown.


    American Brain Tumor Association http://www.abta.org

    American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org


    Brain Tumor Foundation of Canada http://www.braintumour.ca

    Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca


    Astrocytoma. American Brain Tumor Association website. Available at: http://www.abta.org/brain-tumor-information/types-of-tumors/astrocytoma.html. Accessed September 6, 2016.

    General information about adult primary central nervous (CNS) tumors. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/brain/hp/adult-brain-treatment-pdq. Updated January 27, 2016. Accessed September 6, 2016.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.