Low-grade astrocytoma in adults

Article section 1 of 16.  Next

By Edward J Dropcho MD

Supratentorial astrocytoma most often presents as a seizure in an otherwise healthy young adult. "Low-grade" astrocytomas have a better prognosis than anaplastic gliomas, but they are clearly not benign as most patients succumb within 10 years. In this clinical article, Dr. Edward Dropcho of the Indiana University Medical Center summarizes the basic biology, clinical features, and evolving treatment options for patients with astrocytoma.

Key points

  • Low-grade "diffuse" astrocytomas comprise 10% to 15% of cerebral gliomas in adults.
  • Astrocytoma most commonly presents with the new onset of seizure(s) in a young adult and a nonenhancing lesion on MRI scan.
  • The main treatment options for patients with astrocytoma are surgical resection and/or radiation therapy. In selected patients, it may be reasonable to defer intervention.
  • Astrocytoma carries a better survival prognosis than anaplastic glioma, but it is not a benign neoplasm, and treatment is rarely curative. In most (not all) patients, the tumor eventually undergoes transformation to anaplastic astrocytoma or glioblastoma.