Anaplastic Astrocytoma – Are You at Risk?

November 12, 2012

Anaplastic Astrocytoma - Are You at Risk?

An anaplastic astrocytoma refers to a malignant primary grade III brain tumor that comprises around 4% of the main diagnosed brain tumors in the U.S.

The Patients

Although anaplastic astrocytoma may happen at any age – even childhood – most patients who develop this particular disease are already in their forties. Also, most of the time, these tumors start out inside the brain instead of inside the spine.

The Traits

Anaplastic astrocytoma is known to grow quite quickly and usually spreads into the brain’s nearby areas – usually the ones that control the functions of speech, motor and vision. It can also get into adjacent brain tissue areas, either as individual cells or as small cell fingers, thus making it almost impossible for the majority of patients to surgically remove each single cancer cell. Because of this, the tumor usually comes back, which is why surgery might come with a risk of disability. However, this will usually depend on the location of the tumor inside of the brain, as well.

The same goes for its symptoms. Depending on the tumor’s location inside the brain, these may include headaches that get progressively better throughout the day, personality or mental changes, seizures, drowsiness, vision problems, vomiting and nausea.

The Diagnosis

If there are symptoms of a tumor present in your brain, your doctor should perform a neurological exam that will check your hearing, vision, balance, reflexes and coordination. To look inside your brain and find out the problem, he may also order imaging tests, like computed tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A radiologist will then be assigned to review the results and the tumor will be diagnosed as either benign or malignant. However, it is a pathologist’s job to render a definitive subclassification and diagnosis of a brain tumor based on the microscopic studies of the tumor tissues and the radiographic features.

Keep in mind that an experienced pathologist has to examine these tumors, though. Some studies have shown that diagnoses can change significantly if an experienced pathologist takes charge of the review.

The Treatment

Your pathologist, neurosurgeon, oncologist, and radiation oncologist will all use their knowledge and experience to determine which treatments would be the best one for you. Overall, though, your final treatment is going to depend on your age and your tumor’s size, location and stage.

Without a doubt, anaplastic astrocytoma is very complicated, though, and its treatment will require various procedures and techniques. In the beginning, this treatment usually includes steroids to reduce the brain tissue’s inflammation and swelling, and anticonvulsants to control and prevent seizures as needed. If you have built up some fluid inside the brain, your doctor might use a tube to draw extra fluid out of your brain, as well.

Other common treatments to reduce or remove anaplastic astrocytoma would include radiation therapy and surgery. For any operable tumor, it would be highly recommended for surgery to be performed after radiation therapy in order to improve the patient’s survival. If the tumor comes back, chemotherapy has to be used along with radiation therapy to treat it.

Category: Articles