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Pilocytic Astrocytoma


 

Definition: Astrocytomas are tumors that arise from astrocytes, cells in the brain that support and insulate nerve cells. A pilocytic astrocytoma is a type of astrocytoma that is slow-growing and is considered benign.  This type of tumor is classified as grade I by the World Health Organization.  Pilocytic astrocytomas can occur anywhere in the brain or spinal cord but most often occur around the ventricles, areas of the brain where cerebral spinal fluid is created and secreted. These tumors can become very large. 

Symptoms: Symptoms of pilocytic astrocytomas are dependent upon their location.

Evaluation: Pilocytic astrocytomas are evaluated with an MRI or a CT scan.

Treatment Options:

  • Surgery: Partial or complete surgical removal is the treatment of choice for pilocytic astrocytomas.  Surgical removal may not be possible if the tumor involves critical brain structures where removal will cause significant neurological problems. In this case, a biopsy may be recommended to verify the tumor type.  
  • Continued observation: Routine MRI’s may be recommended if a pilocytic astrocytoma is located in an area of the brain where surgical removal of the tumor would most likely cause neurological damage. If the tumor grows to a point where it may cause more damage than surgical removal, then surgery will be considered.
  • Radiation: Radiation therapy may be considered for recurrent tumors.

Follow-up: Ongoing  follow-up with regular MRI or CT scans is recommended as recurrence of these tumors is common.  Repeat surgery is recommended for residual or recurrent tumors.  If the residual or recurrent tumor is growing slowly and does not cause problems, repeat surgery may not be necessary.