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Childhood Astrocytomas Treatment (PDQ®)

Patient Version

Stages of Childhood Astrocytomas

The grade of the tumor is used to plan cancer treatment.

Staging is the process used to find out how much cancer there is and if cancer has spread. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment.

There is no standard staging system for childhood astrocytoma. Treatment is based on the following:

The grade of the tumor describes how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope and how quickly the tumor is likely to grow and spread.

The following grades are used:

Low-grade astrocytomas

Low-grade astrocytomas are slow-growing and rarely spread to other parts of the brain and spinal cord or other parts of the body. Low-grade astrocytomas can be either:

  • Grade I tumors– pilocytic tumors, with cells that form a cyst.
  • Grade II tumors–fibrillary tumors, with cells that look long or like fibers.

There are many types of low-grade astrocytomas. Several types of low-grade astrocytomas are discussed in this summary:

Children who have neurofibromatosis type 1 may have more than one low-grade tumor in the brain.

High-grade astrocytomas

High-grade astrocytomas are fast-growing and often spread within the brain and spinal cord. High grade astrocytomas can be either:

Childhood astrocytomas usually do not spread to other parts of the body.

An MRI is done after surgery.

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is done in the first few days after surgery. This is to find out how much tumor, if any, remains after surgery and to plan further treatment.

  • Updated: November 14, 2014