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About Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytomas

Juvenile pilocytic astrocytomas are tumors that form from astrocytes, star-shaped cells that maintain brain and spinal cord health. At Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, we specialize in diagnosing and treating juvenile pilocytic astrocytomas using the most advanced tools and techniques. Learn more about treatment on our brain tumor surgery page here.

This page covers juvenile pilocytic astrocytomas of the brain. Read about spinal astrocytomas on our Spine Hospital page here.

Juvenile pilocytic astrocytomas tend to occur in children and adolescents, but can sometimes occur in adults. (For this reason, they are sometimes called just pilocytic astrocytomas). They belong to a group of tumors known as astrocytomas, which all arise from astrocytes. On a scale of one to four, the World Health Organization grades tumors according to their speed of growth and ability to invade nearby tissues. The lower the grade, the less aggressive the tumor. Juvenile pilocytic astrocytomas tend to grow slowly. Thus they are labeled as Grade I, the least aggressive, and are considered benign.

Juvenile pilocytic astrocytomas can grow anywhere in the brain and spinal cord. Most often they develop in one of the following locations:

  • Cerebellum—The rear, lower area of the brain, near the base of the skull. The cerebellum coordinates muscle movement, posture and balance.
  • Brainstem—The lower area of the brain, close to the neck, that connects to the top part of the spinal cord. The role of the brainstem is to regulate functions essential for survival, such as heart rate and breathing.
  • Hypothalamus—A small region of the brain located above the brainstem. Its role is to produce hormones that regulate temperature, thirst, hunger and sleep, among other functions.
  • Optic nerve pathways—The series of structures that transmit information between the retina of the eye and the brain.
  • Cerebrum—The largest, frontmost area of the brain. The cerebrum is responsible for thought and voluntary movement.

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