Type of disease: Rare conditions
Anaplastic astrocytoma is a rare cancerous brain tumor that grows from star shaped cells called astrocytes. Astrocytes make up the protective tissue of the brain. Astrocytoma tumors are characterized by "grade" (grade I-IV) which is based on how normal or abnormal the tumor cells appear as well as how fast the tumor is growing. With this system, grade I shows the cells are abnormal but not yet cancerous. Anaplastic astrocytoma is considered a a grade III tumor and requires more aggressive treatment. Astrocytoma tumors are characterized by tentacle-like projections that grow into surround tissues making them more difficult to remove during surgery. Initial symptoms may include headaches, memory loss, depressed mental state, and/or seizures. Other neurological deficits or changes may appear depending on where the tumors spread. Currently there is no known cause for this type of tumor, although a small proportion of individuals (< 5%) may develop anaplastic astrocytoma due to hereditary factors. Anaplasitc astrocyomas tend to occur more frequently in males than females and generally after age 45. Treatment procedures involve surgery first, and then radiation therapy to remove any remaining tumor tissue. Chemotherapy may be necessary if the tumor returns. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with an anaplastic astrosytoma, talk with your doctors and specialists to learn about the most current treatment options available.