Astrocytoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Overview

Astrocytoma is a tumor that grows in your brain or your spinal cord. It develops from an astrocyte, which is a type of support cell in the brain and spine. In general, astrocytoma grows at a slow rate and most of them are benign. It is also the most common type of glioma tumor. There are several different types of astrocytoma. Pilocytic astrocytoma is often benign and children, in general, have a higher risk of having one than adults. Diffuse astrocytoma can be benign or malignant because they usually grow very slowly at the beginning, but they may become very aggressive growing over time. Anaplastic astrocytoma is a malignant one, growing at an intermediate rate. Glioblastomas astrocytoma is a malignant one too, but it grows at a very aggressive rate. Moreover, over 50% of astrocytomas are glioblastomas.

Today, more than 700,000 people in the United States are living with a primary brain tumor. And it is estimated that about 50% of the primary brain tumors are astrocytoma. Generally speaking, it is more common to see a man with the disease than a woman. In most cases, astrocytoma is most likely to show up after the age of 45.

 

Symptoms

Depending on the location and size of the tumor, the signs and symptoms of astrocytoma may vary. And in most situations, the symptoms develop at a slow pace. Usually, astrocytoma that occurs in the brain may cause the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Seizure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mental status changing

For astrocytoma that occurs in the spinal cord, the symptoms may include:

  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Clumsiness
  • Disability in the affected region
  • Changes in behaviors
  • Have trouble walking
  • Incontinence

 

Diagnosis

If the patient has clear signs and symptoms of astrocytoma, the doctor may conduct a physical examination and ask some questions first. In this stage, the doctor will check if the patient has trouble in hearing, vision, balance, coordination and so on. Then, the doctor may want to check the patient’s nerve function. A neurologic evaluation will cover many aspects. The patient may need to accept a magnetic resonance imaging scan, a CT scan or a chest X-ray. Thus, the doctor can see the clear images of the brain and decide whether the tumor has spread to the rest part of the patient’s body. Histological analysis also may be necessary for the doctor to decide the grading diagnosis.

When a patient is sure to have a tumor, a surgical biopsy also may be done to determine which type of astrocytoma the patient has, where the tumor is and how large the tumor is. The biopsy sample may be taken before the surgical removal of the tumor or during surgery. Sample of the patient’s suspicious tissue can then be analyzed in the laboratory and help the doctor to find out whether the tumor type is malignant or aggressive.

 

Causes

As for the exact causes of astrocytoma, researches are still ongoing. Right now, astrocytoma can happen to any gender, races, and ages. However, researchers have found that astrocytoma may have a genetic link. If people have certain genetic disorders, they may have a higher risk of developing astrocytomas.

Also, the diseases may have something to do with abnormalities in the patient’s immune system. Exposure to UV rays and certain chemicals are also potentially the causes of astrocytoma. The radiation therapy also may be a underlying cause.

 

Treatment

The doctor may choose the treatment method according to the types, symptoms, location, and size of the astrocytoma.

  • The doctor may advise the patient to surgically remove the tumor. Now microsurgery can be done with the help of sophisticated neurophysiological monitoring. However, it is worth mentioning that for spinal astrocytoma, it tends to grow and gradually weave in and out the tissues of the spinal cord. Therefore, it is impossible to excise all the astrocytomas. In often cases, the doctor tries to remove as much tumor as possible. Every surgery may have a specific situation.
  • Postoperative radiation therapy. After the operation is done, radiation therapy may be recommended for some patients. If the patient were with a type of astrocytoma that grows in an aggressive manner, radiation therapy would provide help to reduce the symptoms.
  • For patients with glioblastoma astrocytoma and anaplastic astrocytoma, the doctor may treat them with chemotherapy.
  • Electric-field therapy. Using electric-field therapy, cells in the tumor can be well-targeted while normal cells can refrain from hurting.
  • New treatment trials. There are studies of new treatments available that offer the patient a chance to try the latest treatment method. However, new treatments may also have certain side effects.
  • Supportive care. Supportive care is a kind of medical care that is committed to providing relief for the patient from pain and other symptoms of serious disease. Usually, people who are experiencing aggressive treatments such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy or surgery can take advantage of the supportive care to relieve their pain. Under the protection of supportive care specialists, along with your family and your other doctors, you can have access to extra support.

 

Keyword: astrocytoma.

 

Related Posts:

Glioblastoma: The Last Stage of Astrocytoma

Astrocytoma Brain Tumor

 

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.