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Childhood Astrocytomas Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Stages of Childhood Astrocytomas

The grade of the tumor is used to plan cancer treatment.

Staging is the process used to find out how much cancer there is and if cancer has spread. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment.

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There is no standard staging system for childhood astrocytoma. Treatment is based on the following:

  • The grade of the tumor.
  • Whether the tumor is newly diagnosed or recurrent (has come back after treatment).

The grade of the tumor describes how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope and how quickly the tumor is likely to grow and spread.

The following grades are used:

Low-grade astrocytomas

Low-grade astrocytomas are slow-growing and rarely spread to other parts of the brain and spinal cord or other parts of the body. Low-grade astrocytomas can be either:

  • Grade I tumors–pilocytic tumors, which form like a cyst and look almost like normal cells.
  • Grade II tumors–fibrillary tumors, with cells that look long or like fibers.

There are many types of low-grade astrocytomas. Several types of low-grade astrocytomas are discussed in this summary:

  • A visual pathway glioma is a type of low-grade astrocytoma that forms along the optic nerve pathway.
  • A subependymal giant cell astrocytoma is a type of low-grade astrocytoma that may occur in children with tuberous sclerosis.

Children who have neurofibromatosis type 1 may have more than one low-grade tumor in the brain.

High-grade astrocytomas

High-grade astrocytomas are fast-growing and often spread within the brain and spinal cord. High grade astrocytomas can be either:

  • Grade III tumors–anaplastic or malignant tumors.
  • Grade IV tumors–glioblastoma, which spreads the fastest.

Childhood astrocytomas usually do not spread to other parts of the body.

An MRI is done after surgery.

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is done in the first few days after surgery. This is to find out how much tumor, if any, remains after surgery and to plan further treatment.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    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.
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