Brain Tumor and Spinal Tumor Program

Anaplastic Astrocytoma

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What do I have?

Anaplastic astrocytomas are also known as Malignant Gliomas and Grade 3 Gliomas. You may hear your doctor call them “AA” for short. These are brain tumors that come from a type of brain cell called an astrocyte. Tumors developing from astrocytes can be low grade astrocytomas, anaplastic astrocytomas or glioblastomas.

What does it do?

The brain has specialized areas that help us control individual functions, so if a tumor develops in the part of the brain that controls the right leg, you may have weakness, numbness or seizures in that leg. If a tumor develops in the part of the brain that controls language, you may have trouble speaking or understanding. Most tumors are found because they cause a symptom that leads your doctors to check an MRI or CT of the brain.

How long have I had it?

Anaplastic astrocytomas are very fast growing tumors. Sometimes they start out aggressive, while in other cases they begin as slow growing tumors that become increasingly aggressive over many years. Clues are occasionally present in the tumor itself that can help us guess how quickly it has been growing, but these are only clues and most of the time we can’t tell how long a brain tumor has been there.

Can it be cured?

Anaplastic astrocytomas are usually not curable, but are treatable. We do our best to control the tumor and keep it from growing and causing more symptoms using many different tools including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

Unfortunately these tumors tend to continue to grow and become more aggressive. When they do, they can become glioblastomas.

What caused it?

No one knows for sure what causes glioblastomas, although exposure to radiation may increase the likelihood of developing a brain tumor. While scientists have looked at other possible causes such as aspartame (Nutrasweet), cell phones, and power lines, no one has been able to show that any of these clearly cause anaplastic astrocytomas.


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Condition Facts

  • Most common among adults aged 30-50
  • More common in men than women
  • Accounts for 4% of all brain tumors