Astrocytoma is a cancer that occurs in the brain. It begins in the glial cells inside the cerebrum. Normally astrocytoma tumors do not spread to other organs or to other parts of the brain. There are two different types of astrocytoma tumors. Astrocytoma tumors can develop in people of all ages.
Astrocytoma tumors cause compression and destruction for brain parenchyma and can prevent the brain from getting the nutrients it needs. They can cause higher levels of intracranial pressure and higher cerebrospinal fluid volume.
Astrocytoma tumors are usually identified by a neurological exam, eye exam, and other tests that look at a patients coordination and mental acuity. CT scans or an MRI scan is also an important step in the initial diagnosis of an astrocytoma. Both scans are important because they help with the identification of the size and location of the tumor. The next step in the diagnosis process is to take a biopsy of the tumor if one is found. Once removed the astrocytoma will be classified us the World Health Organization grading system to help the medical professionals decide the best course of treatment.
A Grade 1 Astrocytoma is a slow growing and benign cancer. Patients diagnosed with a Grade 1 Astrocytoma tumors have a good prognosis for survival. Surgical removal of the tumor might be an option. If surgery is not an option then it might have to be treated with radiation.
Grade 2 Astrocytoma is characterized by slow moving tumors that can be benign or can start as benign tumors that change into malignant tumors. Grade 2 tends to be more common among younger people. Surgery can be more difficult with Grade 2 tumors so when surgery is not an option, radiation might be used as a form of treatment. Survival rate is greatly increased with treatment.
Grade 3 Astrocytoma is characterized by neurological deficits changes in mental status, seizures, and headaches. The course of treatments remains the same; surgical removal if possible or treatment using radiation therapy. Without treatment a person diagnosed with Grade 3 Astrocytoma can expect an average of 18-month survival rate.
Finally, Grade 4 Astrocytoma contains has a Glioblastoma multiform, which is a malignant brain tumor. This type of tumor can spread quickly. It is highly unlikely that a Grade 4 Astrocytoma can be surgically removed, however this still remains the preferable course of treatment Radiation treatment does not cure the cancer, but can help prolong a patient's life expectancy. Average life expectancy without treatment is about 17 weeks and with treatment anywhere between 30 and 37 weeks. Very few patients with Grade 4 Astrocytoma survive past 5 years.