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What is Astrocytoma?

Astrocytoma is a type of glioma, which is a brain tumor that arises from the brain tissue itself.

Astrocytomas are gliomas that resemble astrocytes — the supportive cells that encircle and protect the nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain.

Some astrocytomas are extremely aggressive brain tumors. These are called glioblastomas and are remarkably difficult to treat.

However, surgical removal of an aggressive astrocytoma can be beneficial for some people, to help alleviate symptoms associated with the tumor and to extend survival following radical removal.

At UPMC, the preferred surgical treatment for an astrocytoma is Neuroendoport® surgery.

Neuroendoport surgery gives surgeons access to the tumor through a dime-size channel. This minimally invasive treatment offers benefits such as:

  • Minimal scarring
  • Fewer side effects and complications
  • Faster recovery times than with traditional surgery

Diagnosing Astrocytoma

Imaging studies, such as MRI or CT scans, can identify astrocytoma.

Your doctor will also ask you about your symptoms.

Symptoms of astrocytoma

Astrocytoma symptoms may include:

  • Seizures
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness or loss of sensation in the arms and/or legs
  • Speech, vision, or memory problems
  • Personality changes

Astrocytoma Treatments

Our neurosurgical team at UPMC may use a combination of surgical and non-surgical approaches to treat astrocytoma.

The most common management approach for astrocytoma is surgery or biopsy, followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy treatment.

Surgery for astrocytoma

Whenever possible, neurosurgeons will remove the tumor surgically.

Neuroendoport® surgery offers a minimally invasive option for tumors within the ventricles (fluid spaces) or deep-seated tumors within the substance of the brain.

A narrow tube or port allows surgeons to access these tumors through a tiny incision in the scalp, in contrast to traditional brain surgery.

Gamma Knife® radiosurgery

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a painless procedure that uses hundreds of highly focused radiation beams to target brain tumors and lesions, with no surgical incision.

For astrocytomas, our neurosurgeons may use a Gamma Knife boost to treat recurrent or residual tumors.

As the nation's leading provider of Gamma Knife procedures, UPMC has treated more than 12,000 patients with tumors, vascular malformations, pain, and other functional problems.

Neurosurgeons may also perform stereotactic radiosurgery using the Cyberknife and other linear-accelerator-based systems.

Radiation therapy

Fractionated External Beam Radiation therapy (EBRT) is a common treatment for brain tumors, either alone or in combination with surgery and/or chemotherapy.

Doctors may also use radiation therapy internally, by placing radioactive material directly in the body near the cancer.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells. Depending on the type and stage of brain cancer, chemotherapy may be taken by mouth, injected, or placed directly into the brain tumor.