In this section
Astrocytomas are tumours that arise from brain cells called
astrocytes. Gliomas originate from glial cells, also called
astrocytes. You will often hear the term Astrocytoma and Glioma
used interchangeably. Astrocytomas account for majority of
childhood brain tumours. In children, more than 80% of astrocytomas
are low-grade and 20% high-grade.
Low-grade astrocytomas are usually well localised and grow
slowly over a period of time. High-grade astrocytomas tend to grow
rapidly, and infiltrate healthy brain tissue surrounding the
tumour. These tumours therefore require more intensive
The signs and symptoms children initially present with, or
continue to experience, is dependent upon the location of the
tumour and age of the child. The most common area for these tumours
to occur is within the cerebellum. This is the area above the back
of the neck. Children with cerebellar tumours experience symptoms
including headache and nausea and vomiting (occurring mostly in the
morning), changes in coordination and an unsteady, clumsy walk. Two
thirds of these tumours are cystic (have a fluid cyst associated
with a solid tumour mass).
Less frequently these tumours arise in the cerebral hemispheres.
These hemispheres (left and right) are located at the top part of
the brain. Children may experience seizures and weakness in their
arms and legs as a result of a tumour in this location.
Children who present with a tumour in the area of the optic
nerve and hypothalamus often present with visual disturbances
(decrease in vision and double vision) and hormone problems. Optic
nerve gliomas are commonly low-grade tumours, and occur along the
optic nerve, the optic chiasm and in the area of the hypothalamus.
Tumours arising in the thalamic region (centre of the brain) can
cause headaches and arm and leg weakness.
After treatment has finished, children visit clinic on a regular
basis, and undergo MRI scans and other investigations throughout
their childhood to detect any possible recurrence. Importantly, all
children attend the Neuro-Oncology Long-Term Effects clinic, where
they are regularly reviewed a by a group of specialists involved in
monitoring the specific long term growth and and development needs
of these patients.