About

Astrocytomas


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.


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.

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:
  • 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

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
  • Headache, particularly in the morning or one that goes away after vomiting
  • Vision, hearing, and speech problems
  • Trouble with walking and loss of balance
  • Clumsiness
  • Seizures
  • Premature puberty
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Changes in personality or behavior
  • Confusion
  • Unusual sleepiness
  • Weakness, particularly if it is only on one side of the body
  • Worsening handwriting
  • Increase in head size (in infants)

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

  1. 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%.
  2. Fibrillary astrocytoma (Grade II): this tumor spreads into surrounding normal brain tissue, which complicates surgical removal.
  3. Anaplastic astrocytoma (Grade III): a malignant tumor that can produce symptoms such as weakness and an unsteady gait.
  4. Glioblastoma multiforme (Grade IV): fast-growing and the most malignant type of astrocytoma.

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:

  • 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
  • Headache, particularly in the morning or one that goes away after vomiting
  • Vision, hearing, and speech problems
  • Trouble with walking and loss of balance
  • Clumsiness
  • Seizures
  • Premature puberty
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Changes in personality or behavior
  • Confusion
  • Unusual sleepiness
  • Weakness, particularly if it is only on one side of the body
  • Worsening handwriting
  • 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:

  1. 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%.
  2. Fibrillary astrocytoma (Grade II): this tumor spreads into surrounding normal brain tissue, which complicates surgical removal.
  3. Anaplastic astrocytoma (Grade III): a malignant tumor that can produce symptoms such as weakness and an unsteady gait.
  4. Glioblastoma multiforme (Grade IV): fast-growing and the most malignant type of astrocytoma.

 

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