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Astrocytomas in Children

What is an astrocytoma?

Astrocytomas are the most common type of glioma. This type of glioma develops from glial cells called astrocytes, most often in the cerebrum (the large, outer part of the brain), but also in the cerebellum (the lower, back part of the brain).

About half of childhood brain tumors are astrocytomas. They are most common in children between the ages of 5 and 8.

They can be slow-growing (low grade, Grade I or II) or fast-growing (high grade, Grade III or IV). Most astrocytomas in children (80%) are low grade. Sometimes they spread to the spine.

There are four primary types of astrocytomas in children:

  • Juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma (Grade I): This slow-growing tumor is the most common brain tumor found in children. Juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma is usually cystic (fluid-filled) and develops in the cerebellum. Surgical removal is often the only treatment necessary.
     
  • Fibrillary astrocytoma (Grade II): This brain tumor infiltrates into the surrounding normal brain tissue, making surgical removal more difficult. A fibrillary astrocytoma may cause seizures.
     
  • Anaplastic astrocytoma (Grade III): This brain tumor is malignant. An anaplastic astrocytoma can produce symptoms such as weakness, unsteady walking and a loss of sensation.
     
  • Glioblastoma multiforme (Grade IV): This is the most malignant type of astrocytoma. It grows rapidly, increasing pressure in the brain.

To make an appointment or request a consultation, contact the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Brain Tumor Center at 410-955-7337.