Skip to content

    Brain Cancer Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Astrocytoma

    Important
    It is possible that the main title of the report Astrocytoma is not the name you expected.

    Disorder Subdivisions

    • grade I astrocytoma
    • grade II astrocytoma
    • grade III astrocytoma
    • grade IV astrocytoma

    General Discussion

    An astrocytoma is a tumor that arises from the star-shaped cells (astrocytes) that form the supportive tissue of the brain. Other supportive cells of the brain include oligodendrocytes and ependymal cells. Collectively, these cells are known as glial cells and the tissue they form is known as glial tissue. Tumors that arise from the glial tissue, including astrocytomas, are collectively referred to as gliomas.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies astrocytomas into four grades depending on how fast they are growing and the likelihood that they will spread (infiltrate) to nearby brain tissue. Noninfiltrating astrocytomas usually grow more slowly than the infiltrating forms. Infiltrating, or diffuse astrocytomas are more common than noninfiltrating astrocytomas. They are generally more common in men and are most common in the cerebral hemispheres of adult patients. In children they occur both in the cerebral hemispheres as well as the brain stem. Tumors from oligodendrocytes (oligodendrodendrogliomas) are also in the category of infiltrating gliomas and can occasionally be difficult to distinguish from astrocytomas. Some infiltrating gliomas are categorized as mixed oligodendroglioma-astrocytoma (oligoastrocytoma).

    Grade I astrocytoma is usually a noninfiltrating tumor. The most common type of grade I astrocytoma is pilocytic astrocytoma which is also known as juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma or JPA. This tumor grows slowly but can become very large. Pilocytic astrocytoma occurs most often in the cerebellum, cerebrum, optic nerve pathway and brainstem. This tumor occurs most often in children and teens and accounts for 2% of all brain tumors.

    Grade II astrocytoma is also called low-grade astrocytoma or diffuse astrocytoma and is usually an infiltrating tumor. This tumor grows relatively slowly and usually does not have well-defined borders. It occurs most often in adults between the ages of 20 and 40.

    Grade III astrocytoma is also called anaplastic (malignant) astrocytoma because this tumor grows more quickly than a grade II astrocytoma. Anaplastic astrocytoma occurs most often in adults between the ages of 30 and 50, and accounts for 4% of all brain tumors.

    Grade IV astrocytoma is also called glioblastoma or GBM and is the most aggressive type of nervous system tumor. It is also referred to as glioblastoma multiforme because of its wide variety of appearances under the microscope. Rarely, non-glial tissue elements can exist in a glioblastoma. The most common variant of GBM showing these additional tissue elements is called a mixed glioblastoma-sarcoma, or gliosarcoma. GBM occurs most often in adults between the ages of 50 and 80, is more common in men, and accounts for 23% of all primary brain tumors.

    Resources

    American Brain Tumor Association
    8550 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue, Suite 550
    Chicago, IL 60631
    USA
    Tel: (773)577-8750
    Fax: (773)577-8738
    Tel: (800)886-2282
    Email: info@abta.org
    Internet: http://www.abta.org

    American Childhood Cancer Organization
    10920 Connecticut Ave
    Suite A
    Kensington, MD 20895
    Tel: (301)962-3520
    Fax: (301)962-3521
    Tel: (800)366-2223
    Email: staff@acco.org
    Internet: http://www.candlelighters.org

    Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center
    McLean Hospital
    115 Mill Street
    Belmont, MA 02178
    Tel: (617)855-2400
    Fax: (617)855-3199
    Tel: (800)272-4622
    Email: hbtrc@mclean.harvard.edu
    Internet: http://www.brainbank.mclean.org

    Children's Brain Tumor Foundation
    274 Madison Avenue, Suite 1004
    New York, NY 10016
    United States
    Tel: (212)448-1595
    Fax: (212)448-1022
    Tel: (866)228-4673
    Email: info@cbtf.org
    Internet: http://www.cbtf.org

    Brain Tumor Foundation for Children, Inc.
    6065 Roswell Road Suite 505
    Atlanta, GA 30328-4015
    USA
    Tel: (404)252-4107
    Fax: (404)252-4108
    Email: info@braintumorkids.org
    Internet: http://www.braintumorkids.org

    Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center
    PO Box 8126
    Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8126
    Tel: (301)251-4925
    Fax: (301)251-4911
    Tel: (888)205-2311
    TDD: (888)205-3223
    Internet: http://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/GARD/

    Madisons Foundation
    PO Box 241956
    Los Angeles, CA 90024
    Tel: (310)264-0826
    Fax: (310)264-4766
    Email: getinfo@madisonsfoundation.org
    Internet: http://www.madisonsfoundation.org

    Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation
    302 Ridgefield Court
    Asheville, NC 28806
    Tel: (828)665-6891
    Fax: (828)665-6894
    Tel: (800)253-6530
    Email: pbtfus@pbtfus.org
    Internet: http://www.pbtfus.org

    PLGA Foundation
    98 Random Farms Drive
    Chappaqua, NY 10514
    Email: contact@fightplga.org
    Internet: http://www.fightplga.org/

    Cancer.Net
    American Society of Clinical Oncology
    2318 Mill Road Suite 800
    Alexandria, VA 22314
    Tel: (571)483-1780
    Fax: (571)366-9537
    Tel: (888)651-3038
    Email: contactus@cancer.net
    Internet: http://www.cancer.net/

    National Brain Tumor Society
    124 Watertown Street, Suite 2D
    Watertown, MA 02472
    Tel: (617)924-9997
    Fax: (617)924-9998
    Tel: (800) 770-8287
    Email: info@braintumor.org
    Internet: http://www.braintumor.org

    For a Complete Report:

    This is an abstract of a report from the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). A copy of the complete report can be downloaded free from the NORD website for registered users. The complete report contains additional information including symptoms, causes, affected population, related disorders, standard and investigational therapies (if available), and references from medical literature. For a full-text version of this topic, go to www.rarediseases.org and click on Rare Disease Database under "Rare Disease Information".

    The information provided in this report is not intended for diagnostic purposes. It is provided for informational purposes only. NORD recommends that affected individuals seek the advice or counsel of their own personal physicians.

    It is possible that the title of this topic is not the name you selected. Please check the Synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and Disorder Subdivision(s) covered by this report

    This disease entry is based upon medical information available through the date at the end of the topic. Since NORD's resources are limited, it is not possible to keep every entry in the Rare Disease Database completely current and accurate. Please check with the agencies listed in the Resources section for the most current information about this disorder.

    For additional information and assistance about rare disorders, please contact the National Organization for Rare Disorders at P.O. Box 1968, Danbury, CT 06813-1968; phone (203) 744-0100; web site www.rarediseases.org or email orphan@rarediseases.org

    Last Updated: 3/20/2012
    Copyright 1990, 1995, 2005, 2007, 2012 National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.

    WebMD Medical Reference from the National Organization for Rare Disorders

    Last Updated: May 28, 2015
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

    Today on WebMD

    doctor and patient
    How to know when it’s time for home care
    doctory with x-ray
    Here are 10 to know.
     
    sauteed cherry tomatoes
    Fight cancer one plate at a time.
    Lung cancer xray
    See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
     
    Malignant Gliomas
    Article
    Pets Improve Your Health
    SLIDESHOW
     
    Headache Emergencies
    Video
    life after a brain tumor
    VIDEO
     

    Would you consider trying alternative or complementary therapies?