How to diagnose astrocytoma

Diagnosing an astrocytoma usually requires several different tests. In most cases, a physician will begin the diagnostic process after a patient reports symptoms such as headaches, nausea and seizures. After reviewing the patient’s medical history and performing a physical exam, a physician may order the following tests to confirm or rule out an astrocytoma diagnosis:

  • Imaging scans – An imaging test is important for identifying any tumors in the brain and can help a physician determine the size and location of an astrocytoma, which in turn will help him or her recommend an appropriate treatment approach. In many cases, the recommended imaging test will be either an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), which uses a strong magnetic field, or a CT (computed tomography) scan, which uses a series of X-rays, to create a detailed image of the brain.
  • Biopsy – A biopsy involves taking a sample of the tumor tissue so that the cells can be analyzed under a microscope. This test is used to determine whether or not a tumor is an astrocytoma.
  • Next-generation sequencing – Moffitt Cancer Center is one of only a few providers offering next-generation sequencing, in which samples of cancerous tissue are examined to determine the genetic makeup of the tumor cells.

These tests can provide physicians with important information about the underlying cause of symptoms and can be used to diagnose and grade an astrocytoma.

Diagnostic and treatment services at Moffitt Cancer Center

Whether you are experiencing symptoms of an astrocytoma or have already received a diagnosis and would like a second opinion, you can find the diagnostic services you require at Moffitt. The team that makes up our Neuro-Oncology Program provides a comprehensive range of diagnostic and treatment services in a single location. We welcome new patients with or without a referral to consult with a Moffitt physician by calling 1-888-663-3488 or filling out a new patient registration form online.


What is an astrocytoma?

Astrocytomas are tumors found in the central nervous system (CNS) that grow from star-shaped astrocyte cells. Astrocytes are glial cells (the type of cells that provide supportive tissue in the brain).

Some types of astrocytomas have small areas of infiltration, while others are more spread out. There are several types of astrocytomas, including:

  • Pilocytic: These tend to not spread and are considered to be noncancerous.
  • Diffuse: These grow slowly.
  • Anaplastic: These are rare but call for aggressive treatment.
  • Glioblastoma: This type grows aggressively and is the most common cancerous primary brain tumor.
  • Subependymal giant cell astrocytoma: This type is linked with tuberous sclerosis, a genetic condition.

Where are astrocytomas found most often?

Most of these tumors are found on the outer curve of the brain. Often, they are found at the top of the brain. Sometimes, they can develop at the base of the brain. Astrocytomas found in the brainstem or spinal cord occur less frequently.

Who is at risk for developing astrocytomas?

The average annual age-adjusted incidence rate for tumors of neuroepithelial tissue (which includes astrocytomas) is 6.6 per 100,000, according to figures from the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States in 2016.

Most cases of pilocytic astrocytomas are diagnosed by the age of 20. About 1,200 people younger than 19 in the United States will have an astrocytoma diagnosis. The 20-45 year age group accounts for about 60% of all low-grade astrocytoma diagnoses. A genetic component has been found in some cases. Males are only slightly more likely to develop astrocytomas than females.

Glioblastomas are often found when people are in their 50s and 60s. The number of U.S. diagnoses is estimated at 10,000 cases per year.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the causes of astrocytomas?

We do not know the exact cause of most astrocytomas. Therapeutic irradiation can lead to the development of astrocytomas. Other environmental exposures, though suspected, have not been shown to cause astrocytomas. Some studies have shown evidence of a genetic component in some cases.

What are the symptoms of astrocytomas?

Symptoms are related to the size and location of the astrocytoma. Common symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Memory loss
  • Seizures
  • Changes in mental status
  • Fatigue
  • Visual problems
  • Other cognitive and motor impairments

Increased intracranial pressure may lead to abnormal reflexes or weakness on one side of the body.

Diagnosis and Tests

How are astrocytomas diagnosed?

Diagnosing astrocytomas can be difficult due to symptoms being similar to other neurological disorders. Some labs may be drawn, such as a complete blood count, basic metabolic profile, and blood clotting times, but are often normal. Radiological tests are used to diagnose astrocytomas.

What tests are used in diagnosing astrocytomas?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the standard study. Computed tomography (CT scans) may be used if a patient cannot have an MRI. Other tests include:

  • Angiography
  • Positron emission tomography (PET scans)
  • Electroencephalography (EEGs)
  • Electrocardiograms (ECGs)
  • Chest X-rays
  • Cerebrospinal fluid studies

A biopsy may be done to determine a definitive diagnosis.

Management and Treatment

How are astrocytomas managed and treated?

Decisions on the treatment of astrocytomas may be made with input from specialists, including neurologists, neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists and medical oncologists. Treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and therapeutic electric fields.

Surgical treatments include biopsies, laser ablation and tumor resections. Drains may be put into place in order to decrease intracranial pressure. Radiation and/or chemotherapies are often prescribed for high-risk tumors. Tumor-treating electric fields may also be of benefit in some cases.

Your doctor may believe that the best treatment strategy is for patients to participate in clinical trials, when available. Staging of astrocytomas is not usually done because it is rare that they grow outside the brain. A person being treated for astrocytoma may also need physical therapy and/or occupational therapy.

Are there any restrictions for someone with an astrocytoma?

Restrictions will be based on the location of the astrocytoma and the extent of the symptoms. For example, if the astrocytomas cause seizures, driving may be prohibited. No other general activity restrictions are necessary, however.

What additional care may be needed?

Follow-up appointments with neurologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and neurosurgeons may be required. Irradiation and chemotherapy may continue, and follow-up tests, such as additional MRIs are often needed.

Outlook / Prognosis

What is the prognosis for someone with an astrocytoma?

The prognosis may vary depending on the type and location of the astrocytoma. For example, patients with a glioblastoma may have a survival rate of less than one year, although some patients may live five years or more. Patients with a pilocytic astrocytoma may have a survival rate of about ten years. If remission is achieved, it can be permanent or temporary.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/05/2018.


  • American Brain Tumor Association. Astrocytoma. ( Accessed 9/14/2018.
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology. Astrocytoma – Childhood Guide. ( Accessed 9/14/2018.
  • National Organization for Rare Disorders. Astrocytoma. ( Accessed 9/14/2018.
  • International RadioSurgery Association. Astrocytomas. Accessed 9/14/2018.
  • Quinn T. Ostrom, Haley Gittleman, Jordan Xu, Courtney Kromer, Yingli Wolinsky, Carol Kruchko, Jill S. Barnholtz-Sloan; CBTRUS Statistical Report: Primary Brain and Other Central Nervous System Tumors Diagnosed in the United States in 2009–2013, Neuro-Oncology, Volume 18, Issue suppl_5, 1 October 2016, Pages v1–v75
  • DeAngelis LM, Wen PY. Primary and Metastatic Tumors of the Nervous System. In: Kasper D, Fauci A, Hauser S, Longo D, Jameson J, Loscalzo J. eds. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 19e New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014.

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Astrocytoma – Childhood: Diagnosis

ON THIS PAGE: You will find a list of common tests, procedures, and scans that doctors use to find the cause of a medical problem. Use the menu to see other pages.

Doctors use many tests to find, or diagnose, a CNS tumor. They also do tests to learn if the tumor has spread to another part of the body from where it started. If this happens, it is called metastasis. For example, imaging tests can show if the tumor has spread. Imaging tests show pictures of the inside of the body. Doctors may also do tests to learn which treatments could work best.

For most tumor types, a biopsy is the only sure way for the doctor to know if an area of the body has a tumor. In a biopsy, the doctor takes a small sample of tissue for testing in a laboratory. If a biopsy is not possible, the doctor may suggest other tests that will help make a diagnosis.

This section describes options for diagnosing astrocytoma. Not all tests listed below will be used for every person. Your child’s doctor may consider these factors when choosing a diagnostic test:

The type of tumor suspected

Your child’s signs and symptoms

Your child’s age and general health

The results of earlier medical tests

In addition to a physical examination, the following tests may be used to diagnose astrocytoma:

    Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan. A CT scan takes pictures of the inside of the body using x-rays taken from different angles. A computer combines these pictures into a detailed, 3-dimensional image that shows any abnormalities or tumors. A CT scan can be used to measure the tumor’s size. Sometimes, a special dye called a contrast medium is given before the scan to provide better detail on the image. This dye can be injected into a patient’s vein or given as a pill to swallow.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI uses magnetic fields, not x-rays, to produce detailed images of the body. MRI can be used to measure the tumor’s size. A contrast medium is given before the scan to create a clearer picture. This dye can be injected into a patient’s vein or given as a pill or liquid to swallow.

Biopsy. Other tests can suggest that a tumor is present, but only a biopsy can make a definite diagnosis. For astrocytoma, a biopsy is done to determine the type and grade of the tumor. It can also be used to identify certain molecular features that help the doctor plan treatment (see below). During a biopsy, a doctor called a neurosurgeon will remove a small piece of tissue from the tumor. A neurosurgeon specializes in treating a CNS tumor using surgery. A pathologist then analyzes the sample. A pathologist is a doctor who specializes in interpreting laboratory tests and evaluating cells, tissues, and organs to diagnose disease.

  • Molecular testing of the tumor. Your child’s doctor may recommend running laboratory tests on a tumor sample to identify specific genes, proteins, and other factors unique to the tumor. Results of these tests can help determine your child’s treatment options (see Types of Treatment).
  • After diagnostic tests are done, your child’s doctor will review all of the results with you. If the diagnosis is astrocytoma, these results also help the doctor describe the tumor. This is called staging and grading.

    The next section in this guide is Stages and Grades. It explains the system doctors use to describe the extent of astrocytoma. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.

    What is an Astrocytoma?

    An astrocytoma is a brain tumor that begins in astrocytes, star-shaped glial cells located in the brain and spinal cord. The most common type of cell in the brain, astrocytes play an important role in the function of neurons. Astrocytomas are the most common type of primary brain tumor within the group of tumors called gliomas. Primary means they have originated in the brain instead of spreading from another part of the body.

    Astrocytomas, including pilocytic astrocytoma and anaplastic astrocytoma, account for about three-fourths of all glioma brain tumors and are classified as low-grade and high-grade to describe their degree of malignancy.

    Low-grade astrocytomas are either Grade 1 or Grade 2. Grade 1, or pilocytic astrocytoma, is the most benign type. It is slow-growing and most common in children and adolescents. Grade 2, or diffuse astrocytoma, is relatively slow-growing and most common in young adults.

    High-grade astrocytomas are either Grade 3, or anaplastic astrocytoma, which grow rather rapidly, or Grade 4, called glioblastoma multiforme, the most malignant, aggressive, and lethal of all astrocytomas. This is the most common brain tumor in adults and also the most common astrocytoma.

    Astrocytomas are most common in the cerebrum, the largest part of the brain located at the top of the head; the cerebellum, the part of the brain near the middle back of the head; the brain stem, which connects the brain to the spinal cord just above the back of the neck; the hypothalamus, the area in the middle of the base of the brain; the visual pathway, which includes nerves that connect the eye with the brain; and the spinal cord, the column of nerve tissue that runs from the brain stem down the center of the back.

    What You Can Expect at UTHealth Neurosciences

    At UTHealth Neurosciences, neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists, and radiation oncologists work together to determine the care each patient needs, discussing treatment options as a group. This approach saves our patients time and money and allows our specialists to share each other’s insights, leading to better treatment decision-making and outcomes.

    We first investigate options for nonsurgical treatment, including medical management, pain management, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and watchful waiting. When surgery is needed, our neurosurgeons routinely employ innovative, minimally invasive techniques. Throughout the treatment process, our team works closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your normal care plan. While you are with us, you can expect expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

    Causes of Astrocytoma

    Possible risk factors for astrocytoma include past radiation therapy to the brain and having certain genetic disorders, such as neurofibromatosis type 1 or tuberous sclerosis.

    Early Signs of Astrocytoma and Diagnosis

    Signs and symptoms of astrocytoma are unique to each patient and depend on where the tumor forms in the brain or spinal cord, the size of the tumor, how fast it grows, and in children, the child’s age and development. Some symptoms appear slowly and grow progressively worse over time. Others may occur suddenly.

    Symptoms may include headache, nausea and vomiting, vision and hearing problems, loss of balance and trouble walking, worsening handwriting, slowed speech, weakness or loss of motor function on one side of the body, memory loss, drowsiness or lethargy, change in personality or behavior, seizures, and weight loss or weight gain for no known reason.

    Diagnosis begins with a physical exam and history and a neurological exam to check mental status, coordination and ability to walk normally, and how well the muscles, senses, and reflexes work. Your neurologist will check central and peripheral vision in each eye. An MRI scan will make a series of detailed pictures of the brain and spinal cord. A contrast agent injected into a vein before the MRI collects around cancer cells to make them appear brighter in the scan. A biopsy will confirm the grade of the astrocytoma.

    Advanced Treatment Options

    At UTHealth Neurosciences, we give patients access to the most advanced treatment delivered with compassion.

    Treatment varies based on the tumor type, grade, size, and location, as well as the patient’s age, overall health, and other factors. Some tumors may require watchful waiting as neurologists and neurosurgeons track changes in the tumor, while higher-grade cases require surgery and/or radiation and chemotherapy, high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant, targeted therapy that attacks cancer cells without harming normal cells, immunotherapy, or new types of treatments being tested in clinical trials.

    Neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists, and radiation oncologists discuss cases in depth weekly at a tumor board review. Working as a team ensures that each patient benefits from the full spectrum of expertise and the best treatment options available, including new drug therapies and immunotherapies being tested in clinical trials.

    Children with astrocytomas are seen by a team of healthcare providers that may include a pediatrician, pediatric neurosurgeon, neurologist, neuropathologist, neuroradiologist, radiation oncologist, rehabilitation specialist, endocrinologist, and child psychologist.

    Treatment options and the chance of recovery depend on whether the tumor is a low-grade or high-grade astrocytoma, where the tumor has formed, how fast it is growing, and whether cancer cells remain after surgery.

    Brain Tumor Types

    Contact Us

    At UTHealth Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8000, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.

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    Related Specialties

    Brain and Skull Base Tumors

    Astrocytomas are tumors that develop from astrocytes, star-shaped support cells in the brain and spinal cord. At Columbia University Irving Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, we specialize in diagnosing and surgically treating astrocytomas of the brain and spinal cord.

    Astrocytomas that develop in the brain are the subject of this page.

    Astrocytomas are the most common tumors in the family of tumors called gliomas. Gliomas are tumors that originate from glial cells, which are the cells that support the neurons in the brain. These include astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and microglia. There are several types of astrocytomas, and the World Health Organization assigns each type a grade on a scale of one to four. Lower grades (Grade I and II) are assigned to slow-growing tumors that are typically benign, whereas higher grades indicate a fast-growing tumor that is malignant. Malignant tumors tend to invade surrounding healthy tissue, causing further damage. Lower-grade tumors can progress to become higher grade.

    Types of astrocytomas include the following:

    • Grade I: Juvenile pilocytic astrocytomas, sometimes called simply pilocytic astrocytomas, occur mostly in children and young adults. Often slow-growing, these tumors may require treatment on the basis of their size. Astrocytomas that grow in the cerebellum are usually this type.
    • Grade II: Diffuse astrocytomas grow slowly and may spread to nearby tissues.
    • Grade III: Anaplastic astrocytomas grow quickly and can spread to nearby tissues. These tumors are aggressive and require rigorous treatment.
    • Grade IV: Glioblastoma multiforme, also called glioblastomas , grow rapidly and spread to nearby tissues. They are the most aggressive type of astrocytoma and require rigorous treatment.

    Astrocytomas can also be classified by location:

    • Brainstem gliomas are astrocytomas that grow in the brainstem. Located toward the base of the skull and above the back of the neck, the brainstem coordinates functions essential for life, including breathing and heart rate. Brainstem gliomas can be any grade, but they are usually high grade. They occur mostly in children and young adults.
    • Pineal astrocytic tumors grow in a part of the brain called the pineal gland. This gland is a pea-sized region that produces the hormone melatonin, which regulates the sleeping and waking cycle. Pineal astrocytic tumors can be any grade.

    Some astrocytomas contain astrocytes and another type of glial cell, oligodendrocytes. These tumors are called mixed gliomas , or oligoastrocytomas .


    A patient may experience a variety of symptoms, depending on size, location, and grade of astrocytoma. Symptoms may include:

    • Seizure
    • Changes in personality or behavior
    • Cognitive impairment
    • Visual disturbances such as vision loss or nystagmus
    • Ataxia

    The astrocytoma may cause increased intracranial pressure, which can injure the brain. Symptoms may include headache (particularly in the morning or upon waking), nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness.


    A physical examination and neurological examination may be performed to identify symptoms of an astrocytoma. Imaging tests are then required to diagnose astrocytomas.

    The standard imaging test is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to show tumors and other soft tissue in the brain. However, people with pacemakers or certain other implanted metallic devices cannot undergo MRI. A good alternative is a computed tomography (CT) scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to visualize the skull, blood vessels and other structures. Often, a contrast agent (either swallowed as a pill or injected as a dye) is used with MRI and CT scan to enhance the tumor and make it more visible.

    Imaging tests can detect an astrocytoma but usually cannot identify the type or grade. To “grade” the tumor, a biopsy is performed and a tissue sample is obtained. The sample can be obtained either during surgery to remove the tumor or using a less invasive method: stereotactic biopsy. During stereotactic biopsy, open surgery is not performed. Instead, advanced technology is used to guide a needle to the tumor location and obtain a tissue sample. The sample is then viewed under a microscope to confirm the grade and type of astrocytoma. This additional information helps guide treatment decisions.

    Risk Factors

    Currently, the exact cause of astrocytomas is not well understood.

    Astrocytomas can occur in children or adults. Most astrocytomas in children are low grade, whereas in adults most are high grade. About 40% of brain tumors in children are astrocytomas, making this the most common type of brain tumor in children.

    Men and women can develop astrocytomas.

    People with the rare conditions neurofibromatosis type 1, Turcot syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, or tuberous sclerosis are at increased risk of developing astrocytomas. These conditions are inherited, but all other astrocytomas occur spontaneously.


    Treatment depends on the location and grade of an astrocytoma and requires our neurosurgeons to use a customized approach for each patient. In general, lower-grade astrocytomas require less intense treatment and have better outcomes than higher-grade tumors.

    The standard treatment is for a neurosurgeon to perform a craniotomy in order to remove the astrocytoma surgically. The neurosurgeon’s goal during surgery is to remove all of the tumor, but this is not always possible, particularly for higher-grade tumors that have spread to nearby tissue. In some cases, a catheter with a laser tip can be used to access and destroy the tumor without performing a craniotomy.

    Radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy may be used next to destroy any remaining tumor. However, for younger children, radiation therapy is typically avoided because the radiation can interfere with brain development.

    Some astrocytomas are located where they cannot be surgically removed safely. Instead, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy are used without surgery to shrink and destroy the astrocytoma.


    • 1 Division of Neurology, The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, Duke University Medical Center, DUMC 3624, Durham, NC 27710, USA.
    • PMID: 17964028
    • DOI: 10.1016/j.ncl.2007.07.004
    • Search in PubMed
    • Search in NLM Catalog
    • Add to Search



    • 1 Division of Neurology, The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, Duke University Medical Center, DUMC 3624, Durham, NC 27710, USA.
    • PMID: 17964028
    • DOI: 10.1016/j.ncl.2007.07.004


    High-grade astrocytomas include the most common adult central nervous system (CNS) tumor, glioblastoma multiforme, and anaplastic astrocytoma–a highly aggressive cancer with short median survival despite maximal multimodality therapy. Diagnosis is by clinical and radiographic findings confirmed by histopathology. Standard-of-care therapy includes surgical resection, radiotherapy, and temozolomide. Nearly all patients who have high-grade astrocytomas develop tumor recurrence or progression after this multimodality treatment. Two treatment challenges are molecular/genetic heterogeneity of tumors and limited CNS tumor delivery. It is probable that targeted therapies will be most effective in combination with one another or with cytotoxic therapies. This article discusses diagnosis and current treatment of high-grade astrocytomas.

    What is astrocytoma?

    Astrocytoma may be a sort of cancer that will form within the brain or medulla spinalis. Astrocytoma starts in cells called astrocytes that encourage nerve cells.

    The signs and symptoms of astrocytoma depend upon the situation of your tumor. Astrocytomas that occur within the brain can cause seizures, headaches, and nausea. Astrocytomas that occur within the medulla spinalis can cause weakness and disability within the area suffering from tumor growth.

    Astrocytoma is often a slow-growing tumor or it is often an aggressive, fast-growing cancer. The aggressiveness (grade) of your astrocytoma decides your prognosis and treatment options.

    Types of astrocytoma

    Types of astrocytoma include:

    • Ependymoma
    • Glioblastoma
    • Oligodendroglioma

    Causes of astrocytoma

    Like most primary brain tumors, the precise explanation for gliomas is unknown. But there are some factors that will increase your risk of getting a brain tumor.

    Risk factors

    Like most primary brain tumors, the precise explanation for gliomas is unknown. But there are some factors that will increase your risk of getting a brain tumor. Risk factors include:

    • Your age. Your risk of getting a brain tumor increases with age. Gliomas are commonest in adults between the ages of 45 and 65. However, a brain tumor can happen at any age. Certain sorts of gliomas, like ependymomas and pilocytic astrocytomas, are more common in children and young adults.
    • Exposure to radiation. People that are exposed to a kind of radiation called radiation have a better risk of developing a brain tumor. Samples of radiation include radiotherapy wont to treat cancer and exposure to radiation caused by atomic bombs.

    The most common sorts of radiation, like electromagnetic fields from power lines and frequency radiation from microwave ovens, haven’t been shown to extend the danger of glioma.

    It is not clear whether telephone use increases the danger of brain cancer. Some studies have found a possible association between telephone use and a kind of brain cancer called acoustic neuroma. Many other studies have found no association. Because cell phones are a comparatively new factor, more long-term research is required to know the potential impact on cancer risk. For now, if you’re concerned about the possible link between cell phones and cancer, experts recommend limiting your exposure by employing a speakerphone or hands-free device, which keeps the telephone far away from your head.

    • Case history of glioma. It’s rare for glioma to be hereditary. But having a case history of glioma can double the danger of developing it. Some genes are weakly related to glioma, but more studies are needed to verify a link between these genetic variations and brain tumors.

    Symptoms of astrocytoma

    Astrocytoma symptoms vary counting on the sort of tumor, also because of the size, location, and rate of growth of the tumor.

    Common signs and symptoms of astrocytoma include:

    • Headache
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Confusion or impaired brain function
    • Amnesia
    • Personality changes or irritability
    • Difficulty maintaining balance
    • Enuresis
    • Vision problems, like blurred vision, diplopia, or loss of sight
    • Speech difficulties
    • Seizures, particularly in someone without a history of seizures

    Diagnosis of astrocytoma

    The tests and procedures wont to diagnose astrocytoma include:

    • Neurological examination: During a neurological exam, your doctor will ask about your signs and symptoms. He or she will control your vision, hearing, balance, coordination, strength, and reflexes. Problems in one or more of those areas can provide clues to that a part of your brain which will be suffering from a brain tumor.
    • Imaging tests: Imaging tests can help your doctor determine the situation and size of your brain tumor. MRI is usually wont to diagnose brain tumors and may be utilized in conjunction with specialized MRI imaging, like functional MRI, perfusion MRI, and MRI spectroscopy.

    Other imaging tests may include CT scans and positron emission tomography (PET).

    Removal of a tissue sample for analysis (biopsy). A biopsy could also be done before surgery or during surgery to get rid of your astrocytoma, counting on your unique situation and therefore the location of your tumor. The suspicious tissue sample is analyzed during a laboratory to work out the cell types and their level of aggressiveness.

    Specialized tests of tumor cells can tell your doctor what sorts of mutations the cells have acquired. This provides your doctor with clues about your prognosis and may guide your treatment options.

    Treatment for astrocytoma

    Astrocytoma treatments include:

    Surgery to get rid of the astrocytoma. Your neurosurgeon will work to get rid of the maximum amount of astrocytoma as possible. The goal is to get rid of all of cancer, but sometimes the astrocytoma is found near sensitive brain tissue that creates it too risky. Even removing cancer can reduce its signs and symptoms.

    For some people, surgery could also be the sole treatment needed. For others, additional treatments could also be recommended to kill any cancer cells which will remain and reduce the danger of the cancer returning.

    • Radiotherapy: Radiotherapy uses high-energy beams, like X-rays or protons, to kill cancer cells. During radiotherapy, you lie on a table while a machine moves around you, directing the rays to express points in your brain.

    Radiation therapy could also be recommended after surgery if cancer has not been completely removed or if there’s an increased risk of the cancer returning. Radiation is usually combined with chemotherapy for aggressive cancers. For people that cannot have surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy could also be used because of the primary treatment.

    • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs are often taken in pill form or through a vein in your arm. In certain situations, a circular wafer of chemotherapy drugs could also be placed within the brain after surgery, where it dissolves and slowly releases the drug.

    Chemotherapy is normally used after surgery to remove any cancer cells which will remain. It that often combined with radiotherapy for aggressive cancers.

    • Clinical trials: Clinical trials are studies of the latest treatments. These studies offer you the chance to check the newest treatment options, but the danger of side effects might not be known. Ask your doctor if you would possibly be eligible to participate in a clinical test.
    • Supportive (palliative) care: Palliative care is specialized medical aid that focuses on providing relief from pain and other symptoms of a significant illness. Palliative care specialists work with you, your family, and your other doctors to supply a further layer of support to enrich your ongoing care. Palliative care is often used while undergoing other aggressive treatments, like surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy.


    Other than radiation exposure, there are no known environmental or lifestyle causes of brain and spinal cord tumors, so there is currently no known way to protect against most of these tumors.

    How to diagnose astrocytoma

    Diagnosis of Astrocytoma

    Doctors use many tests to find or diagnose CNS tumors. They also conduct tests to see if the tumor has spread to other parts of the body from where it started. If this happens, it is called a transfer. For example, imaging tests can show whether the tumor has spread. The imaging test shows a picture of the inside of the body. The doctor can also run tests to determine which treatment is the most effective.

    For most types of tumors, a biopsy is the only reliable way for doctors to find out if there is a tumor in a certain part of the body. In a biopsy, the doctor will take a small sample of tissue for analysis in the laboratory. If a biopsy is not possible, the doctor may recommend other tests that will aid in the diagnosis.

    This section describes the options for diagnosing astrocytoma. Not all of the tests listed below are suitable for everyone. Your child’s doctor may consider the following factors when choosing a diagnostic test:

    Suspicious tumor type

    Your child’s signs and symptoms

    Your child’s age and general health

    First medical test results

    In addition to During physical examinations, the following tests are available for the diagnosis of astrocytoma:

    Computed tomography (CT or CAT). A CT scan uses x-rays taken from different angles to take pictures of the inside of the body. The computer combines these images into detailed 3D images that show any abnormalities or tumors. Computed tomography can be used to measure the size of the tumor. Sometimes a special dye called a contrast agent is used before the scan to provide better image detail. The dye can be injected into a patient’s vein or swallowed as a pill.

    Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI uses magnetic fields instead of X-rays to generate detailed images of the body. MRI can be used to measure the size of tumors. Use contrast agent before scanning to create a clearer image. The dye can be injected into a patient’s vein or swallowed as a pill or liquid.

    Biopsy. Other tests may indicate the presence of a tumor, but only a biopsy can make a definite diagnosis. For astrocytomas, a biopsy is performed to determine the type and grade of the tumor. It can also be used to identify certain molecular features that help doctors plan treatment (see below). During the biopsy, a doctor called a neurosurgeon will remove a small piece of tissue from the tumor. Neurosurgeons specialize in using surgery to treat tumors of the central nervous system. The pathologist then analyzes the sample. A pathologist is a doctor who specializes in interpreting laboratory tests and evaluating cells, tissues, and organs to diagnose diseases.

    Molecular tumor test. Your child’s doctor may recommend laboratory tests of tumor samples to determine genes, proteins, and other factors specific to the tumor. The results of these tests can help determine your child’s treatment plan. After completing the diagnostic tests, your child’s doctor will review all the results with you. If an astrocytoma is diagnosed, these results can also help the doctor describe the tumor. This is called staging and classification.