Care at CNSO – Understanding Astrocytoma of the Brain

What is a tumor?

In normal health, all the cells in your body are strictly regulated in terms of how large they can grow, and when they can divide into new cells. In this way, your body can adapt to changing needs, repair tissue damage, or replace tissue loss.

Sometimes, genetic damage can cause a cell to lose its ability to obey the body’s regulatory signals. When this happens to a cell in your body, it can grow in a disordered, unregulated fashion. The result is called a tumor. Genetic damage can be caused by environmental pollutants (carcinogens), radiation, or even infections. Some individuals are predisposed to this type of genetic damage.

Not all tumors are cancerous (malignant). In fact, most tumors are benign. That is, they can grow in size, sometimes quite large, but do not invade into nearby structures. Removing them completely is therefore curative.

Cancerous (malignant) tumors, on the other hand, have undergone additional genetic changes that allow them to invade surrounding structures, and even break off and travel in the blood stream (metastasize) to grow new tumors in other parts of the body. Cancerous tumors are harder to control than benign tumors.

What is a brain tumor?

Brain tumors are broadly classified into primary and secondary tumors. Primary tumors arise from cells associated with the brain, such as neurons (nerve cells), astrocytes and oligodendrocytes (support cells), lymphocytes (immune cells), or meningeal cells (that form a protective covering around the brain). Primary brain tumors can be either benign or malignant.

Secondary brain tumors are always malignant, as they have metastasized to the brain from elsewhere in the body, such as the lungs, colon, or breast. Therefore, treatment of secondary brain tumors is closely coordinated with treatment of the original cancer.

What is an astrocytoma?

Astrocytomas are the most common type of primary brain tumor in adults. These tumors result from genetic damage to a star-shaped support cell (glial cell) in the brain known as an astrocyte. Astrocytomas are also referred to as gliomas. Approximately 15,000 new cases of astrocytoma are diagnosed in the US every year. Men are slightly more affected than women.

Astrocytomas are classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) according to their malignant behavior. Grade 1 tumors are benign, but can cause damage by compressing surrounding brain structures. Grade 1 tumors are typically diagnosed in children, and account for 2% of all brain tumors.

Grade 4 tumors, or glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) are extremely malignant. They are typically diagnosed in individuals over the age of 50, accounting for 50% of all astrocytomas, and 23% of all primary brain tumors.

Astrocytomas can present with headaches, especially in the morning, personality changes, altered mental status, nausea and vomiting, vision changes, speech difficulties, loss of balance, gait instability (ataxia), seizures, or weakness. Symptoms depend on location of the tumor and brain structures involved.

Fortunately, there have been rapid advances in the diagnosis and treatment of astrocytomas, and results now are significantly better than they were only a few years ago. Astrocytoma treatment requires a team effort, with close coordination between neurosurgeons, neurologists, oncologists, radiation oncologists, and physiatrists.

NJ’s Only Comprehensive Facility to provide assessment and treatment for Astrocytoma of the Brain and Follow Up Care Near You

The dedicated surgical and non-surgical team at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine, and Orthopedics (CNSO) understand how a diagnosis of astrocytoma can impact the lives of patients and their families. By working with recognized board-certified neurosurgeons, non-surgical physicians, physiatrists, rehabilitation specialists, and certified physical therapists, patients will receive comprehensive and coordinated care, so they can resume a healthy lifestyle free of disability.

CNSO offers multiple convenient locations across northern New Jersey, including offices in Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Essex, Hudson, and Sussex Counties. Northern NJ patients can learn more about effectively treating astrocytoma of the brain by contacting the providers at CNSO today.

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