Astrocytoma | Diagnosis & Treatment

How are astrocytomas diagnosed?

To diagnose a pediatric astrocytoma, your doctor will take your child's medical history and carry out both physical and neurological exams. Your doctor may also order a variety of tests, including:

  • a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to evaluate the tumor and determine its extent
  • biopsy or tissue sample from the tumor to provide definitive information about the type of tumor and its grade, and allow for molecular profiling of tumor cells
  • electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures the brain's electrical activity
  • lumbar puncture, in which a doctor takes a small sample of cerebrospinal fluid from near the base of the spine to see whether the tumor has spread

Specific astrocytoma diagnoses could include:

After all tests are completed, doctors will be able to outline the best treatment options.

What are the treatment options for astrocytomas?

Our treatment approach for pediatric gliomas is personalized for each patient depending on several factors, including the tumor's type, stage and location. Some therapies will treat the tumor, while others are intended to address complications of the disease or side effects of the treatment.

In addition, our clinicians may offer access to targeted treatments based on the molecular profile of your child's tumor.

Some of the options your doctor may discuss include:

  • surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible
  • chemotherapy, either before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to eliminate any remaining tumor cells
  • radiation therapy, commonly for children with high-grade gliomas and used whenever possible in children with low-grade gliomas to avoid possible long-term side effects

We also offer innovative brain tumor clinical trials for children with astrocytomas. Some of these were launched by our own physicians, while others are available through our participation in collaborative groups such as the Children's Oncology Group (COG) and the Pediatric Oncology Experimental Therapeutics Investigators' Consortium (POETIC).

Should you have questions or need advice on whether a particular trial would be appropriate for your child, email our clinical trials team at clinicaltrials@danafarberbostonchildrens.org. We can help you navigate your options.

What is the long-term outlook for a child with a astrocytoma?

Your child’s prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on a number of different factors, including:

  • type of tumor
  • tumor grade
  • the extent of the disease
  • the size and location of the tumor
  • the presence or absence of metastasis
  • the tumor's response to therapy
  • the age and overall health of your child
  • your child's tolerance of specific medications, procedures or therapies
  • new developments in treatment

In general, astrocytomas tend to be readily treatable. Prompt medical attention and appropriate therapy are important for the best prognosis.