A to Z: Astrocytoma
May also be called: Pilocytic Astrocytoma, Fibrillary Astrocytoma, Anaplastic Astrocytoma, Glioblastoma Multiforme
An astrocytoma (as-troh-sy-TOE-muh) is a brain tumor that originates from a star-shaped brain cell known as an astrocyte.
More to Know
Astrocytes are the most common type of cell in the central nervous system. They perform many essential roles and make up the supportive tissue of the brain. When there is a defect in an astrocyte that causes it to grow out of control, the brain tumor that forms is called an astrocytoma.
Astrocytomas come in four major subtypes: pilocytic astrocytoma (grade 1), fibrillary astrocytoma (grade 2), anaplastic astrocytoma (grade 3), and glioblastoma multiforme (grade 4).
Low-grade astrocytomas (grades 1 and 2), seen more often in kids and young adults, are highly curable because they usually grow slowly, don’t spread, and usually are fairly easy to remove unless found in areas where surgery would be difficult. After surgery, there’s a chance that chemotherapy or radiation won’t be needed.
High-grade astrocytomas (grades 3 and 4), which tend to be seen more in adults, are more aggressive and invade deeper into the tissues. This makes them more difficult to treat. Treatment usually includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Keep in Mind
Treatment for brain tumors is getting better all the time, but a lot depends on the location of the tumor. Astrocytomas that can be completely removed surgically are much more likely to be cured, while those that can’t be completely removed are, in general, less curable.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.