What is an Astrocytoma?

Jane had a type of brain tumour known as an Astrocytoma.

An Astrocytoma is a glioma that develops from star-shaped glial cells (astrocytes) that support nerve cells.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are four grades of brain tumors that are derived from astrocytes which are a type of neuroglial brain cell. These tumors are called astrocytomas. These various types of astrocytomas include:

Grade
Prognosis
Examples
I
Excellent prognosis

Juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma (JPA),

Pleiomorhic xanthroastrocytoma (PXA)

II
Prognosis variable
Astrocytoma
III
Poor prognosis
Anaplastic astrocytoma
IV
Aggressive tumor
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)

High grade astrocytomas such as Anaplastic astrocytoma and Glioblastoma multiforme infiltrate surrounding brain tissue and, therefore, complete surgical removal is usually not possible. These cancers are usually fatal although prolonged survival does occur in a small minority of patients.

Treatment

High grade astrocytomas such as Anaplastic astrocytoma and Glioblastoma multiforme infiltrate surrounding brain tissue and, therefore, complete surgical removal is usually not possible. These cancers are usually fatal although prolonged survival does occur in a small minority of patients.

Radiation after surgery prolongs survival for a few months.

Chemotherapy is only marginally effective in the treatment of Anaplastic Astrocytoma and Glioblastoma multiforme. Typical chemotherapy agents include carmustine (BCNU) and lomustine (CCNU). A newer type of chemotherapy is a drug called Temozolomide (Temodar in the USA)

Source: Stephen M. Sangar and Mark A. Israel, Primary and Metastatic Tumors of the Nervous System, in HARRISON’S PRINCIPLES OF INTERNAL MEDICINE, pt. 15 § 358, at 2452-2460 (Dennis L. Kasper, M.D. et al., eds, 16th ed 2005).

Jane’s tumour started out as a Grade II Astrocytoma.  Surgery only managed to remove a very small part of the tumour.  Nothing then happened for 3 years until the tumour started growing again. After radiotherapy, the tumour changed in to a Grade III Anaplastic Astrocytoma. From that moment on, we were no longer trying to cure her but merely prolong her life as much as possible through chemotherapy.

More information about Astrocytomas can be found on these website:

Astrocytomas – Wikipedia

Astrocystic Tumours – MacMillan Cancer Support

Treatment for Astrocytomas – Cancer Research UK

Some Astrocytoma bloggers:

Deirdre Kohler – Brutal Honesty

Russell – RW Brain Tumour

The golf ball in my brain

The Liz Army

Life with a brain tumour

That’s life