Astrocytomas are tumors that develop from astrocytes, star-shaped support cells in the brain and spinal cord. At Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, we specialize in diagnosing and surgically treating astrocytomas of the brain and spinal cord.
Astrocytomas that develop in the brain are the subject of this page. For information about Spinal Astrocytomas, please click here.
Astrocytomas are the most common tumors in the family of tumors called gliomas. Gliomas are tumors that originate from glial cells, which are the cells that support the neurons in the brain. These include astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and microglia. There are several types of astrocytomas, and the World Health Organization assigns each type a grade on a scale of one to four. Lower grades (Grade I and II) are assigned to slow-growing tumors that are typically benign, whereas higher grades indicate a fast-growing tumor that is malignant. Malignant tumors tend to invade surrounding healthy tissue, causing further damage. Lower-grade tumors can progress to become higher grade.
Types of astrocytomas include the following:
Astrocytomas can also be classified by location:
Some astrocytomas contain astrocytes and another type of glial cell, oligodendrocytes. These tumors are called mixed gliomas, or oligoastrocytomas.
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