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Low-grade Astrocytoma

(also called a "grade II astrocytoma" or "diffuse astrocytoma")


 

Definition: Astrocytomas are tumors that arise from astrocytes, cells in the brain that support and insulate nerve cells. Low-grade astocytomas occur most often in children and young adults and usually occur in the frontal, parietal, or temporal lobes. They are classified as grade II by the World Health Organization. These tumors are slower growing that grade III and grade IV astrocytomas but usually progress to a higher grade over time. The goal of treatment is to decrease symptoms and to slow the progression of the tumor as much as possible.      

Symptoms: The most common initial symptom of a low-grade astrocytoma is a seizure.  Other symptoms depend on the location of the tumor. 

Evaluation: Low-grade astrocytomas are evaluated with MRI scans.

Treatment Options:

  • Surgery: Surgery is recommended to obtain a sample of the tumor to confirm the diagnosis and to remove as much of the tumor as possible without causing significant neurological problems.  Although recent data suggests that aggressive removal of low-grade gliomas may significantly improve chances of long-term survival, it may be impossible to surgically remove all of the tumor since it can be mixed with normal brain tissue. A biopsy may be all that is possible if the tumor is located in a critical part of the brain where removal may cause serious neurological damage.
  • Radiation:  Focal fractionated radiation therapy is sometimes recommended for adults with recurrent low-grade tumors or to control seizures related to the tumor that cannot be controlled with seizure medications. 
  • Chemotherapy:   Chemotherapy works best to control rapidly -dividing cells.  The cells of a low-grade tumor divide slowly so chemotherapy is not often recommended for this type of tumor. 
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    Follow-up: Long-term close follow-up with regular MRI scans is recommended to watch for tumor recurrence, growth or progression to a higher grade.