Thalamic Astrocytoma and Hypothalamic Astrocytoma

What are thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytomas?

Thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytoma are both a type of glioma — a type of brain tumor — meaning that they develop in the brain’s glial or supportive tissues. Thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytomas develop in the thalamus — a deep-lying part of the brain responsible for identification of sensation, such as temperature, pain and touch and a relay center for movement — or the hypothalamus — the brain area just below the thalamus responsible for hormone functioning, body temperature, sleep and appetite. Sometimes, these tumors can invade both areas.

What are the symptoms of thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytomas?

Since thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytomas grow relatively slowly, a child may have been having symptoms for many months prior to diagnosis, or his symptoms may appear more suddenly. Many symptoms are associated with increased pressure in the brain, including:

  • headache – generally upon awakening in the morning
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fatigue
  • weakness on one side of the body
  • symptoms of hormone imbalance including weight loss/gain
  • symptoms of salt and water imbalance including frequent urination
  • changes in vision

How we care for thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytomas

Children and adolescents with thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytomas are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Glioma Program, one of the largest and most experienced pediatric glioma programs in the world, and part of the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Brain Tumor Center.

Our glioma specialists — a team of neuro-oncologists, surgeons, pathologists and radiation oncologists — focus solely on the care of children diagnosed with gliomas. The Glioma Program also offers families the chance to have their child's tumor molecularly profiled (as long as a biopsy can be taken), which may help identify opportunities for targeted treatment.