What is an Astrocytoma?Astrocytomas are a rare form of brain cancer. The cancer originals from glial cells in the cerebellum called astrocytes. Astrocytomas belong to a group of cancers called gliomas. These are cancers that start glial in cells found in the brain or spine. There are no confirmed causes or risk factors for astrocytomas. However, high-grade astrocytomas appear more frequently in adults. Common symptoms of astrocytomas include seizures and headaches. Other symptoms depend largely on the location of the tumour. The speed that astrocytoma progresses and spreads depends on its grade. Low-grade astrocytomas develop very slowly. Anaplastic astrocytoma and glioblastoma multiforme are two types of high-grade astrocytomas that grow more quickly. The grade of a tumour will affect what treatment options are available for the patient.
Symptoms of Astrocytomas:Early diagnosis of astrocytomas is crucial to their treatment. This is because the cancer can spread to other parts of the brain, limiting treatment options and making it more difficult to completely remove. Different cases of astrocytoma have different symptoms due to the area of the brain affected. For this reason, people may not experience all of the following symptoms. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, we recommend that you see a doctor as soon as possible:
- Headaches – If you are suffering from an astrocytoma, you may experience painful headaches.
- Seizures – Sufferers of astrocytomas may experience seizures. These seizures will range in length and severity.
- Changes in mood, personality and memory – A person with a brain tumour may not seem themselves. They may have difficulty learning or recalling new information. They may also struggle with speech and writing.
- Coordination problems – Brain tumours can also affect coordination, making movement difficult. Dizziness, weakness or numbness on one side of the body may also occur.
Treatment for Astrocytomas:The available types of treatment for an astrocytoma vary depending on its stage, location and severity. This is due to the risks associated with particular types of treatment such as surgery. Treatments also come with strong side effects. For this reason, it is important that you consider and discuss all available options with your doctor. Below are some of the most common treatments for astrocytomas: Surgery: During surgery, surgeons will attempt to remove as much of a tumour as possible without causing damage to the nearby brain tissue or spine. This comes with risks which should be discussed with your surgeon. If the tumour has created a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), another operation may be necessary to drain the fluid Sometimes, a tumour cannot be completely removed via surgery. In this case, doctors will recommend other treatments post-surgery to remove what is left. Other times, it is not safe to remove a tumour via surgery. In this case, your doctor will recommend other treatments as an alternative to surgery. Radiotherapy: Radiotherapy is when cancer cells are targeted using high-energy rays. This destroys the cells and reduces the likelihood of cancer reoccurring. For treatment of astrocytomas, these high energy rays will be targeted ato your brain or spine. An oncologist will work with you to create a radiotherapy treatment plan specific to the type and location of the cancer. Radiotherapy may be used as a follow-up to surgery, or as an alternative to surgery when the cancer is inoperable. Radiotherapy does cause side effects. These include:
- Tiredness and fatigue.
- Irritated, red or itchy skin and hair loss around the targeted area.
- Loss of hair
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased risk of infection