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Astrocytoma: Diagnosis and Treatment | Sheba

Astrocytoma Treatment in Israel - What Treatments are Effective?

Astrocytoma is a kind of cancer that can affect both children and adults and is caused by a type of cell that supports nerve cells. These calls are known as astrocytes, and they are responsible for providing structure and support to neurons and allowing them to work properly unless something causes an issue.

This cancer can occur in the brain or spinal cord, and it can cause a variety of different symptoms, depending on where it develops. Astrocytomas also vary based on how quickly they grow and whether or not they’re malignant.

Suppose a patient experiences any symptoms that could be an indication of astrocytoma or their doctor suspects the presence of it or any other type of cancer. In such case, it’s essential to go through the proper diagnosis and treatment.

Astrocytoma treatment in Israel

Astrocytoma, Diagnosis:

There are multiple different symptoms that astrocytoma can cause, all depending on the location of the tumor. These symptoms can include persistent headaches, seizures, unexplained personality changes, blurry vision, limb weakness, etc. If you notice any of these symptoms, make sure to talk to a doctor, and they will go through all the necessary steps to reach the appropriate diagnosis.

Physical Exam and Medical History

The first step in diagnosing any disease is often a physical exam. A doctor thoroughly examines the patient and looks for any signs that indicate their health isn’t optimal.

Additionally, they will review the patient’s medical history to get an overview of if they had any concerning issues in the past and how their health differs now from what it used to be.

Visual Field Exam

As mentioned above, blurry vision can be one of the symptoms of astrocytoma. This cancer can cause issues with the patient’s eyesight because the tumor can create pressure on the optic nerve.

A medical professional can check whether this has happened with a visual field exam. This exam can determine how much vision the patient has in each eye, whether they have scotomas (blind spots) and if there are any issues typically caused by brain tumors.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) with Gadolinium

with Gadolinium
When trying to diagnose a brain tumor, doctors often use imaging tests because they allow them to see all the abnormal physical changes that occur in the brain. And the best option to go with when looking for signs of astrocytoma is an MRI with gadolinium.

Gadolinium is a type of contrast medium that improves the clarity of the image the MRI produces. The patient will receive gadolinium intravenously before the MRI and after the results of the scan come back, the doctor will have a clear and precise image of the patient’s brain.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

In some cases, an MRI can’t be performed, and this is usually the case when the patient has a pacemaker or a different implanted medical device. In those cases, or if perhaps the doctor wants a more detailed image, they will order a CT scan.

A CT scan uses multiple X-rays to take pictures of the body or certain body parts from multiple different angles and produces detailed images.


The tests we mentioned beforehand can help the doctor see whether a tumor or a mass might be present. However, it’s not enough to just know that a patient has astrocytoma, the doctor also needs to determine the type and grade of the tumor. This is done by performing a biopsy.

During a biopsy, a small piece of tissue from the tumor is removed by a neurosurgeon. Afterward, that tissue will be analyzed by a pathologist who will be able to give an accurate diagnosis.

Lumbar Puncture

As mentioned above, astrocytoma can appear in the brain or the spinal cord. To determine whether the tumor is in the spinal cord, the doctor will order a lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap.

A lumbar puncture will help determine whether there are any cancerous cells in the spinal cord.

Molecular Testing

Molecular testing is done to determine what specific subgroup of astrocytoma the patient is suffering from. This is done by taking a tissue sample from the tumor and running laboratory tests which will determine whether the patient has certain proteins and genes in their astrocytoma.

Finding out the exact type of astrocytoma the patient suffers from is important because it allows the medical professional in charge of the case to determine what treatment option would be the best for that specific case.

Astrocytoma Treatment

After the doctor determines the patient is suffering from astrocytoma and knows what stage the disease is in, they will be able to determine the best treatment. Observation and Close Monitoring Astrocytoma has multiple grades, from 1 to 4, and grade 1 astrocytoma is benign in most cases, meaning it’s not cancerous. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t progress into a more advanced stage and become cancerous. Stage 1 astrocytoma is slow-growing and may not present with any symptoms at all. If it is discovered, it doesn’t require any treatment, but the patient will be put under observation and close monitoring. This means they will have regular checkups and MRI scans so the doctor can monitor if and how the tumor is progressing. These checkups may be performed every few months or even years, depending on the individual case. If the tumor increases in size and starts growing more quickly, or if the patient develops worsening symptoms, then they will require treatment. This may happen but the patient could also combat the illness completely by themselves with no intervention.


If a patient suffers from cancerous grade 1 astrocytoma, it’s still a mild form of the disease, and the most common cure for it is surgery. In some milder cases, surgery can also remove grade 2 astrocytomas.

This is a treatment option for all grades of astrocytoma, however, with some, surgery is enough to reach remission, and with others, it’s only the first line of defense.

During the procedure, a surgeon will remove most of the tumor or all of it, depending on its grade and size. However, even if they don’t remove all of it, the surgery will still be beneficial because the patient will get relief from the pressure caused by the tumor, while the medical professionals in charge of the case will be able to do testing on the tumor tissue.

This testing will allow them to determine what kind of medication would be most effective for that specific type of astrocytoma.


For those patients who are suffering from higher-grade osteosarcoma, after they receive surgery, the next step in their treatment is usually chemotherapy. Chemotherapy for astrocytoma is given in multiple rounds and typically requires the use of two or three different chemo drugs.
There are many different drugs that can be used for chemotherapy, and so the specific type, as well as the dosage and the frequency of the patient’s chemotherapy session will depend on a few different factors.

These factors include:

  • The stage of the cancer
  • The patient’s age, body weight and overall health
  • Whether the patient has received any previous cancer treatments
  • If the patient has any other pre-existing medical conditions or allergies that would make certain medications unsuitable


Radiotherapy, also known as radiation therapy, is a treatment option that uses high-powered X-rays to target cancerous cells. This can be used either as a standalone treatment option or in combination with chemotherapy, and it’s considered to be very effective.

Grade 3 and grade 4 astrocytomas usually require both chemotherapy and radiotherapy because they’re very aggressive and fast-growing. Unfortunately, grade 4 astrocytoma usually can’t be treated, but it can be managed with radiotherapy.

Bone Marrow Transplant

with High Dose Chemotherapy
As we mentioned beforehand, chemotherapy is given to most astrocytoma patients, except those who can be treated with surgery alone. Chemotherapy as a treatment option, while effective, is also very aggressive, which can cause issues for the patient.

Apart from the usual side effects chemotherapy can cause such as hair loss, weakness, nausea, fatigue, etc., it can also lead to a more serious issue. While chemotherapy does kill cancerous cells, it also destroys healthy cells.

These cells are vital for the body and the immune system to function properly, and so in some cases, patients who receive high-dose chemotherapy also might need a bone marrow transplant.

During a bone marrow transplant, the patient is injected with healthy stem cells that, over time, develop into healthy blood-forming cells. This is done to replace all of the healthy cells that were destroyed during chemotherapy.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy is one of the least invasive cancer treatment options because, unlike chemotherapy and radiotherapy, it can find and target only the cancerous cells.

This type of treatment finds the specific proteins, genes, or tissue environment that is responsible for the growth and survival of the tumor. The main goal of targeted therapy is to block the tumor cells from spreading to the rest of the body and damaging healthy cells.

It’s important to note that targeted therapy is always catered to the specific patient and, before they are given this treatment, the doctor in charge of the case will have to perform some tests. These tests are done to determine what treatment would be the best option.

Follow-up Care

If a patient suffers from astrocytoma and goes through treatment successfully, they will still need follow-up care.

Follow-up care for astrocytoma is similar to any other type of cancer, and it requires the patient in remission to go to the doctor for regular checkups.

The main purpose of this follow-up care is to keep an eye on the patient, see if and for how long they keep displaying cancer symptoms, and keep track of their overall health. During this time, the doctor will also perform regular tests and MRIs to make sure the cancer doesn’t come back.

If you believe that you or someone you love may be suffering from astrocytoma, you can get your diagnosis and the best possible treatment here at Sheba Medical Center. When you come to Sheba, you’re in good hands.

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