Astrocytoma and Glioblastoma Treatment
Star-shaped cells called astrocytes make up the supportive tissue of the brain. When a tumor develops from one of these cells, it is called an astrocytoma. Astrocytomas can range from low-grade, slowly-growing tumors to high-grade, rapidly-growing tumors, which are also known as glioblastomas. Low-grade tumors are more common in children, while high-grade tumors are more common in adults.
Types of Astrocytomas
We “grade” astrocytomas based on the abnormality of the cells and how quickly they grow. There are four grades of astrocytomas, graded on a scale from I to IV.
Click below to learn more about the different types of astrocytomas.
Grade IPilocytic astrocytomas – Grade I astrocytomas are least aggressive and are considered the most noncancerous form of astrocytoma. They are generally contained to the area where they began growing and do not spread.
Grade IIDiffuse Astrocytoma – Grade II astrocytomas do tend to grow and invade surrounding tissues, but they do so at a slower rate than more aggressive astrocytomas.
Grade IIIAnaplastic Astrocytoma – Grade III astrocytomas grow more rapidly than Grade I and II astrocytomas, and require more aggressive treatment.
Grade IVGlioblastoma – Glioblastomas are very aggressive. They can be classified as primary or secondary. Primary glioblastomas grow rapidly and are the most common form of Grade IV astrocytoma. Secondary glioblastomas begin as a low-grade tumor and eventually evolve into a more aggressive Grade IV tumor.
Astrocytomas can develop in the lobes and upper part of the brain, the brainstem, the cerebellum, and less commonly in the spinal cord. They are most common in the cerebrum. Symptoms can vary based on the location of the tumor.
Common early symptoms of an astrocytoma include persistent headaches, dizziness or problems with coordination, seizures, problems with memory, and changes in behavior. Depending on the location of the tumor, loss of appetite, double or blurred vision, vomiting, and difficulty with speech may also develop.
Proper diagnosis, including diagnostic imaging tests like CT scans and MRIs, is needed to determine the proper course of treatment. The course of treatment we recommend will vary based on the grade of the tumor, its location, and how far and quickly it is spreading or growing.
Our goal with astrocytoma treatment is to remove as much of the tumor as possible without injuring healthy brain tissue needed for normal functions. Surgery to remove the tumor, radiation and chemotherapy are all possible treatment options depending on the type of tumor. Radiation selectively kills tumor cells, while leaving the healthy brain tissue unharmed. During chemotherapy treatments, patients receive drugs designed to kill tumor cells. In young children, chemotherapy may be recommended to delay radiation therapy, as radiation may affect the still-developing brain.
Grade I tumors typically only require surgery to remove the tumor. Once we remove the tumor, patients may need follow-up visits to make sure the tumor doesn’t return. We may also surgically remove Grade II tumors if the tumor is in an accessible location. If the tumor is not accessible or cannot be completely removed, we may recommend radiation.
Surgery is also the first step for Grade III and IV tumors to remove as much of the tumor as possible. We usually recommend radiation after surgery. For Grade IV tumors, chemotherapy may be given at the same time as radiation. If a Grade III tumor returns, chemotherapy may also be recommended.
If a tumor regrows, additional surgery, another form of radiation, or a different chemotherapy drug may be recommended.
Astrocytoma and Glioblastoma Treatment at CNA
At Coast Neurosurgical Associates, our physicians have a wide range of experience in neurosurgical procedures, including treatment of astrocytoma and glioblastoma. If you would like to learn more about astrocytoma and glioblastoma treatment at Coast Neurosurgical Associates or schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, please contact our office at (562) 595-7696.