Astrocytoma is the second most common malignant glioma (cancer of the glia or neuroglia - a type of tissue that surrounds and supports the nerve cells in the brain). It comprises approximately 30% of all gliomas and is commonly found in children (with peak age between 5 and 8 years old). However, it can occur at any age, with higher incidence in males.

Astrocytoma lesion can originate in any part of the central nervous system, but usually occurs in the white matter of the cerebral hemispheres of the brain. Cerebellar astrocytoma is usually confined to one hemisphere.


The symptoms of astrocytoma include:

  • Headache
  • Changes in mental activity or ability
  • Decreased motor strength and coordination
  • Stumbling to one side
  • Seizure
  • Changes in speech
  • Vomiting

The change in symptoms can actually help doctors determine the location of the tumor. For instance:



Third ventricle
  • Changes in mental activity
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea
  • Sluggish reflex
  • Ataxia (loss of coordinated movement)
Brain stem and pons
  • Facial nerve palsy or paralysis, often accompanied by loss of sensation and uncontrollable tremor
  • Tremor
  • Ataxia
Third or fourth ventricle, and aqueduct of Sylvius
  • Secondary hydocephalus (abnormal accumulation of fluid in the cerebral ventricles)
Thalamus, hypothalamus
  • Endocrine hormone changes
  • Metabolic changes
  • Behavioral changes


Low-grade cystic cerebellar astrocytoma can be treated by surgery (although repeated surgeries may be necessary). Some astrocytomas are also susceptible to radiation, and can be treated with radiation therapy. The obstructed cerebrospinal fluid pathway may also need to be diverted.


See also:
Brain Tumor Overview

Increased intracranial pressure (ICP)

Brain Tumor Types:

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