What is Pilocytic Astrocytoma?

Pilocytic Astrocytoma (PA) is a rare, slow-growing spine or brain tumor that occurs mainly in children. Pilocytic astrocytoma gets its name from star-shaped cells in the brain called astrocytes. Astrocytes help protect the brain and what is inside, specifically neurons.

What causes pilocytic astrocytoma? Who is affected?

The cause of pilocytic astrocytoma is unknown, but there are several of risks that are associated with the disease. It is rare for a brain tumor to be genetically inherited, but certain types of pilocytic astrocytoma, such as optic gliomas, have been associated with a genetic disorder.

Children and young adults under the age of 20 are mainly affected by this disease. In children, the disease is called juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma. It is estimated that 14 out of every 1 million children under the age of 15 are affected. Pilocytic astrocytoma occurs equally in boys and girls.

What are the symptoms of pilocytic astrocytoma?

There are many symptoms associated with pilocytic astrocytoma, which are sometimes caused by increased pressure in the brain. These symptoms are:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Change in mood personality
  • Clumsiness and weakness
  • Change in vison

How is pilocytic astrocytoma treated?

In some cases, no treatment is required, and a doctor will monitor the tumor with MRI scans to make sure the tumor does not grow any larger. The main treatments for pilocytic astrocytoma are:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy