A type of glioma—a tumor that develops from specific star-shaped cells—astrocytoma grow in the tissues of the brain and sometimes in the spinal cord. Graded from one to four based on their rate of growth, their size and whether or not they are spreading to surrounding tissue, physicians then use this classification to determine how best to approach treatment.

The specific causes of astrocytomas are unknown, but certain genetic conditions such as neurofibromatosis are thought to be precursors to the development of these tumors.

Depending on their size and location, astrocytomas can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting, seizures and weakness and numbness throughout the body. Additionally changes in thinking or behavior are also possible.

A physician will confirm a diagnosis of an astrocytoma through a comprehensive neurological exam, image testing and biopsy of the tumor itself. And once a diagnosis is confirmed, treatments options (based on the size and location of the tumor as well as the patient’s health condition) may range from radiation and/or chemotherapy along with surgery to remove the tumor.