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What is a thalamic or hypothalamic astrocytoma?
These pediatric brain tumors (also called gilomas) arise in the thalamus and the hypothalamus. The thalamus is a deep-lying central part of the brain responsible for identification of sensation, such as temperature, pain and touch; it is also the relay center for movement. The hypothalamus is the area just below the thalamus, responsible for hormone functioning, body temperature, sleep and appetite. Sometimes an astrocytoma can invade both areas—sometimes only one. “Low-grade” tumors are slow-growing and less aggressive than high-grade (malignant) tumors.
How are thalamic/hypothalamic astrocytomas classified?
An important part of diagnosing a brain tumor involves staging and classifying the disease, which will help your child’s doctor determine treatment options and prognosis. Staging is the process of determining whether the tumor has spread and if so, how far.
There are four “grades” of astrocytomas. Ordered from least to most aggressive, they are:
Thalamic/hypothalamic astrocytomas are usually classified as grade I or grade II tumors.
What causes thalamic/hypothalamic astrocytomas?
While research has shown that there is a link between some types of low-grade astrocytomas (including thalamic/hypothalamic astrocytomas) and certain genetic diseases, specifically neurofibromatosis I and tuberous sclerosis, these tumors most often have no known cause. There’s nothing that you could have done or avoided doing that would have prevented these tumors from developing.
What are the symptoms of thalamic/hypothalamic astrocytomas?
Since thalamic/hypothalamic astrocytomas grow relatively slowly, your child may have been having symptoms for many months by the time she is diagnosed, or symptoms may appear more suddenly.
Many children with thalamic/hypothalamic astrocytomas have symptoms related to increased pressure in the brain, including:
Other symptoms your child may show include:
Keep in mind that these symptoms may resemble other, more common conditions or medical problems. If you don’t have a diagnosis and are concerned, always consult your child's physician.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”