Types of Astrocytoma

About 50 percent of brain tumors can be categorized as an astrocytoma – a form of brain cancer that develops in tiny star-shaped cells known as astrocytes. Astrocytomas may also develop in the spinal cord, although most occur in the brain’s cerebrum.

How are astrocytomas classified?

There are several types of astrocytomas. Here is a brief overview of each:

  • Pilocytic astrocytoma (grade 1) – Pilocytic astrocytomas most often occur in children.
  • Diffuse astrocytomas (grade 2) – Diffuse astrocytomas tend to grow slowly, but can still advance to higher-grade tumors if left unaddressed.
  • Anaplastic astrocytomas (grade 3) – Anaplastic astrocytomas are rare, quickly spreading tumors that are difficult to remove due to their root-like shape that grows into surrounding brain tissue.
  • Glioblastomas (grade 4) – Glioblastomas comprise about 50 percent of astrocytomas. These aggressive tumors spread quickly and most often affect adults between the ages of 50 and 70.
  • Pineal astrocytic tumors – Pineal astrocytic tumors affect the pineal gland, which is the small organ in the cerebrum that produces melatonin. These tumors can be any grade.
  • Brain stem gliomas – Often classified as high-grade astrocytomas, brain stem gliomas are rare malignancies that develop in the brain stem, the bottom section of the brain that joins the brain to the spinal cord.

A patient’s ideal course of treatment will depend on what type of astrocytoma is present. For example, an individual with a diffuse astrocytoma may respond differently to a certain therapy than a patient with a brain stem glioma. At Moffitt Cancer Center, the multispecialty team that makes up our Neuro-Oncology Program has an unparalleled level of experience treating patients with all types of astrocytoma – even the most uncommon and complex tumors. This experience translates directly into more positive outcomes and improved quality of life for our patients.

To request an appointment with a Moffitt oncologist specializing in brain cancer, call 1-888-663-3488 or fill out a new patient registration form online. We welcome patients with or without referrals.