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Astrocytomas Overview

We treat children and adolescents with astrocytomas at Sheba Medical Center in Israel. Almost half of all pediatric brain tumors are astrocytomas, and our team of doctors is highly experienced in treating this cancer. Using advanced, precise technologies, we diagnose childhood cancers precisely to design the most effective, customized treatments. Our pediatric specialists are world-renowned leaders in cancer research and treatment. We bring our unique expertise to caring for each and every child with cutting-edge, progressive therapies that are not available elsewhere.

Our physicians use a compassionate manner and a holistic approach when treating children. Your child’s quality of life is essential to planning an efficient, integrative, and comfortable treatment program. We understand that cancer can have serious effects on the overall well-being of your child and your entire family. We offer a variety of professional support services to address your physical and psychological needs.

Brain tumors in children are the second most common tumors caused by pediatric cancers.
In the Pediatric Hemato-Oncology Division at Sheba, we diagnose a brain tumor in about 40 children each year.

Our specialists relate to each young patient with compassionate, personalized medicine. Our laboratory is a world leader in neuropathology, offering the initial pathological diagnosis, as well as highly precise, advanced molecular diagnostic testing.

We provide each child who suffers from a brain tumor with 24/7, multi-disciplinary care under the full supervision and cooperation of the Pediatric Hemato-Oncology Division. Our department also leads the Israeli affiliation to the PINOC group, a team involved in developing groundbreaking therapies for brain tumors.

A child with a brain tumor undergoes a complex set of treatments, interacting with a wide range of medical disciplines. Our goal is to provide each child and his or her family with the most professional, personalized, and helpful source of integrative care and support.

Astrocytoma - Sheba Medical Center

About Pediatric Astrocytomas

Astrocytomas are the most common type of glioma, a brain tumor that develops from glial cells. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, approximately 1,200 children and adolescents younger than age 19 are diagnosed with astrocytomas every year.

These tumors are most commonly diagnosed in children between the ages of five and eight. The majority of astrocytomas are highly treatable and highly curable. They do not generally spread to other parts of the body, although sometimes they spread to the spine.

What are pediatric astrocytomas?

Astrocytomas are a particular type of glioma that originates in the astrocytes, which are star-shaped glial cells. Glial cells nourish the neurons in your brain and protect them from disease, such as infection. Childhood astrocytomas generally form in the following parts of the central nervous system (CNS): cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, hypothalamus, visual pathway, and spinal cord.

What are the risk factors of pediatric astrocytomas?

The cause of most childhood brain tumors, including astrocytomas, is unknown. However, there is some scientific evidence that genetics are involved in a small percentage of cases of pediatric cerebral astrocytomas.
The following factors may increase a child’s risk for astrocytomas:

The following factors may increase a child’s risk for astrocytomas:

  • Neurofibromatosis (NF1): an inherited disorder that causes neurofibroma, a type of noncancerous tumor. This condition is also called
  • Recklinghausen’s disease or von Recklinghausen’s disease.
  • Past radiation to the brain

Less commonly associated with developing a CNS tumor are the following inherited conditions:

  • Tuberous sclerosis
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome
  • Turcot syndrome

What are the symptoms of pediatric astrocytomas?

The symptoms of astrocytomas vary from child to child, primarily depending on the size of the tumor, where the tumor forms in the brain or spinal cord, how fast the tumor is growing, and the child’s age and stage of development.

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of pediatric astrocytomas include:
  • Nausea and vomiting; with no other signs of gastrointestinal illness
  • Vision, hearing, and speech problems
  • Clumsiness
  • Premature puberty
  • Changes in personality or behavior
  • Unusual sleepiness
  • Worsening handwriting
  • Headache, particularly in the morning or one that goes away after vomiting
  • Trouble with walking and loss of balance
  • Seizures
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Confusion
  • Weakness, particularly if it is only on one side of the body
  • Increase in head size (in infants)

How many types of pediatric astrocytomas are there?

Pediatric astrocytomas, like other types of gliomas, are categorized into four grades:

  • Juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma (Grade I): this tumor is slow-growing and is the most common childhood brain tumor. It is generally cystic (fluid-filled) and develops in the cerebellum. Often, surgical removal is the only necessary treatment, and the cure rate is 90%.
  • Fibrillary astrocytoma (Grade II): this tumor spreads into surrounding normal brain tissue, which complicates surgical removal.
  • Anaplastic astrocytoma (Grade III): a malignant tumor that can produce symptoms such as weakness and an unsteady gait.
  • Glioblastoma multiforme (Grade IV): fast-growing and the most malignant type of astrocytoma.

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Sheba Medical Center provides innovative, personalized medical care to patients from around the world. We are the largest, most comprehensive hospital in the Middle East and dedicated to providing advanced and compassionate medicine for everyone. We welcome all cases, including the rarest and the most challenging. Our medical teams collaborate to provide the best possible health outcomes. From your initial inquiry through the long-term follow-up care, we are here for you.

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