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What are diffuse astrocytomas?

The most common grade two astrocytomas are called diffuse astrocytomas. They occur most often in adults aged 20-45 and are more common in males than females.

Diffuse means the tumour doesn't have well-defined edges, which can make it more difficult to remove completely. 

Diffuse astrocytomas are slow-growing, but can sometimes return following treatment as a grade three astrocytoma.

Anaplastic astrocytoma symptoms

Some of the common symptoms associated with astrocytomas are:

  • tiredness
  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • double vision
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • seizures
  • balance problems

Treating diffuse astrocytomas

Neurosurgery (complete or total resection)

Where possible, treatment for diffuse astrocytomas in adults is normally surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible - depending on the location.

If the tumour is completely removed, no more treatment may be necessary. You will continue to be monitored with regular MRI scans and treatment will only be given if your symptoms worsen, you develop new symptoms or your scan shows the tumour growing. This is often called watch and wait.

Neurosurgery (partial resection or debulking)

Because the edges of diffuse astrocytomas aren't well-defined, complete removal is often not possible and more of the tumour is often left behind. 

These tumours are more likely to regrow and, therefore, surgery, is more often followed up with radiotherapy. This is particularly the case if you have symptoms such as weakness in an area of your body.

Radiotherapy

If you are relatively fit, a long course of radiotherapy over several weeks may by suggested. If not, a shorter course may be more suitable. Radiotherapy is very rarely used in children under three years old.

Radiotherapy uses controlled doses of invisible, high energy beams of charged particles to destroy tumour cells whilst causing as little damage as possible to surrounding cells.

Chemotherapy

For children, particularly young children, chemotherapy, rather than surgery, is usually the first treatment given.

Chemotherapy treatment plans vary enormously and your child's chemotherapy will be carefully planned and tailored to them individually. As a result, it could vary from daily chemotherapy for a while, as a day case in hospital, to being admitted to the ward for several days every two to three weeks.

Diffuse astrocytoma prognosis

Adults

The average survival time after surgery is six to eight. More than 40% of people live for longer than 10 years.

Children

Almost 90% of children that are diagnosed with a diffuse astrocytoma survive for five years or more after surgery.

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