What is astrocytoma?

Astrocytomas are the most common type of primary brain tumour within the group of brain tumours called gliomas. Primary means they have originated from the brain instead of spreading from elsewhere.

About one third of all brain tumours diagnosed in the UK are astrocytomas. They grow from a type of cell in the brain called an astrocyte, which is the most abundant cell in the brain.

There is nothing you could have done, or avoided doing, that would have prevented you from developing a brain tumour.

Types of astrocytoma

Astrocytomas can be any grade.

Grade 1 astrocytomas ('pilocytic astrocytomas')

These are slow growing, relatively contained and unlikely to spread to other parts of the brain. They are also unlikely to return after being surgically removed. They tend to grow in the cerebellum, which controls balance. They can also occur in the optic pathways, which are involved in sight.

Grade 2 astrocytoma ('diffuse astrocytoma')

Grade 2 astrocytoma ('diffuse astrocytoma') The most common grade 2 astrocytoma is called a 'diffuse astrocytoma'. Diffuse means it does not have well-defined edges, which can make it more difficult to remove completely.They are slow-growing, but can sometimes return, following treatment, as a grade 3 astrocytoma.

Grade 3 astrocytoma ('anaplastic astrocytoma')

They are fast-growing and often referred to as 'malignant' or cancerous. They often recur following treatment in a more advanced form i.e. grade 4 astrocytoma.

Grade 4 astrocytoma ('glioblastoma')

Grade 4 astrocytomas are usually called glioblastoma. You may hear them called glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM for short.

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