What is an Anaplastic Astrocytoma?

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  • Written By: Alex Said
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2018
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Anaplastic astrocytoma is a type of brain tumor that can invade surrounding brain tissue. It has a butterfly-like distribution and can pass through the white and gray matter of the two hemispheres of the brain. Although this type of tumor can spread throughout the brain, it is predominately found within the cerebral hemispheres of the brain.

The cause of anaplastic astrocytoma often is difficult to identify. There are, however, certain risks that can predict the onset of this tumor. For example, the frequency of the tumor is higher in families with a history of colon cancer, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, or hereditary nonpolyposis. People who have been treated with high radiation therapy for the brain and people who have exposure to high doses of vinyl chloride are also at a higher risk.

Symptoms for anaplastic astrocytoma are often non-specific. There is increased pressure within the head and some localized pain can occur. Symptoms can last for a couple of days or may persist. Symptoms include headache, especially during the morning, and vomiting. Other symptoms that can persist include seizures, weakness, neuroendocrine abnormalities, and change in thought processes. As the symptoms resemble other medical conditions, anaplastic astrocytoma is sometimes hard to diagnose. A physician should be consulted for a proper diagnosis and treatment.


There are many ways that the brain tumor can be diagnosed. For example, a physical examination can diagnose the tumor. Doctors often use computerized tomography scans and magnetic resonance imaging to compare the patient's brain tissue with normal tissue to detect a tumor. Other techniques such as magnetic resonance spectroscopy and biopsy can also be performed.

Once an anaplastic astrocytoma has been diagnosed, there are different factors to consider when determining what treatment is right for the patient. Factors include the age of the individual as well as the type, location, and size of the tumor present. The tolerance for specific medications as well as the progression of the disease will also be considered.

The primary procedure for treatment of this tumor involves surgical removal, which will typically be followed by radiation therapy. Surgery involves removing as much of the tumor as possible in order to ensure maximum recovery. Most high-grade tumors cannot be fully removed because of further complications and danger to surrounding tissue. The survival rate for patients who undergo surgery to completely remove the tumor along with radiation therapy is about 40%. Reports also suggest that there is about a 20% survival rate for patients who have an incomplete removal of the tumor.



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