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Doctor and young male with astrocytoma symptoms

Astrocytoma is a type of primary brain tumor that develops in astrocytes, which are specialized glial cells in the central nervous system (CNS). Because astrocytes play a vital role in supporting neural function and maintaining the structural integrity of the brain, astrocytoma can cause disruptive neurological symptoms.

Astrocytoma symptoms can vary widely based on the size of the tumor, its specific location in the brain and the affected nerves or glands.

Early warning signs of astrocytoma

While there is no singular, definitive symptom that universally signals the presence of astrocytoma, persistent and unexplained headaches are often reported as an early warning sign. Headaches caused by astrocytoma often differ from typical headaches in terms of their intensity, duration and response to usual remedies.

Common symptoms of astrocytoma

A growing brain tumor may begin to create pressure inside the skull (intracranial pressure), which can cause additional symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting.

What does astrocytoma feel like?

A sensation commonly associated with astrocytoma is head pain, which can range from dull and persistent to intense and throbbing. Depending on the impact of the tumor on the CNS, other sensations may occur, including numbness or weakness in the limbs, difficulties with balance and coordination and impaired vision or speech. Some people also experience a decline in their cognitive function, such as memory loss, confusion or difficulty concentrating. Finally, like many other types of cancer, astrocytoma can cause a general feeling of listlessness and fatigue.

What does astrocytoma look like?

In infants and young children, astrocytoma may cause the skull to become visibly enlarged. Additionally, an eye examination may reveal swelling near the blind spot at the back of the eye.

Symptoms of advanced astrocytoma

Advanced astrocytoma may produce more severe and pronounced symptoms, especially in cases of glioblastoma multiforme and other high-grade tumors. Some people experience:

  • Progressively worsening headaches that stop responding to treatment
  • Frequent seizures
  • Profound cognitive decline
  • Extreme personality changes
  • Difficulty with motor functions
  • Significant visual or speech disturbances

While these symptoms are associated with many medical conditions, their persistence or escalation should prompt a thorough medical evaluation to rule out or diagnose astrocytoma and initiate timely intervention to help ensure an optimal treatment outcome.

Benefit from world-class care at Moffitt Cancer Center

As with all types of cancer, early diagnosis and treatment of an astrocytoma can help ensure the best possible outcome and quality of life. The multispecialty team in our Neuro-Oncology Program focuses exclusively on treating cancers of the brain and nervous system, creating an individualized treatment plan for each patient based on many unique considerations. In a single location, we provide a full range of diagnostic, treatment and supportive care services, as well as a robust portfolio of clinical trials.

If you would like to discuss your astrocytoma symptoms with a specialist in our Neuro-Oncology Program, you can request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488  or submitting a new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.