Astrocytomas are the most common type of glioma. They arise from astrocytes, which are star shaped cells in the nervous system.
Normally, astrocytes are responsible for many roles, including supporting the blood vessels that provide nutrients to the brain and nervous tissues, as well as regulating the blood brain barrier.
An astrocytoma can occur in any part of the brain or spinal cord. Astrocytomas may vary in their appearance and behaviour, may be malignant or benign, and can grow at different rates (very slow to very quickly).
Grade I - Pilocytic Astrocytoma
Pilocytic astrocytoma is a benign brain tumour that arises from astrocytes, the supportive cells in the nervous system.
These slow-growing tumours usually occur in children and are considered the most benign type of astrocytoma. They account for about 15% of primary brain tumours in people under the age of 20.
Pilocytic astrocytomas can arise anywhere in the central nervous system, but typically develop near the cerebellum, brainstem, hypothalamic region, or optic nerve.
For most patients, the cause of pilocytic astrocytoma is unknown. However, there are a few rare, genetic conditions that may increase a patient’s chance of developing pilocytic astrocytoma, such as neurofibromatosis type 1.
Astrocytomas are a type of glioma. For this reason, pilocytic astrocytomas are also a type of low-grade glioma.
Grade II- Diffuse Astrocytoma
Diffuse astrocytoma is a slow-growing brain tumour that arises from astrocytes, the supportive cells in the nervous system. These tumours account for about 10-15% of gliomas and most often occur in adults between the ages of 20 and 45. Diffuse astrocytomas do not have well-defined edges, as small clusters of tumour cells tend to grow and infiltrate neighbouring, healthy tissue.
Astrocytomas are a type of glioma. For this reason, diffuse astrocytomas are also a type of low-grade glioma.
Grade III - Anaplastic Astrocytoma
Anaplastic astrocytoma is a fast-growing brain tumour that arises from astrocytes, the supportive cells in the nervous system.
They are more common in adults between the ages of 30 and 70, and often develop in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain but may occur in almost any area of the central nervous system.
Anaplastic astrocytomas are made up of rapidly dividing cells and are often referred to as ‘malignant’ or cancerous.
Astrocytomas are a type of glioma. For this reason, anaplastic astrocytomas may also be called a grade III glioma, or a high-grade glioma.
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