This type of tumor commonly affects children between the ages of five and eight years old and usually starts in the brain itself. This type of tumor accounts for between 10 and 30 percent of pediatric brain tumors.
Symptoms usually include clumsiness of one hand, changes in how the child walks (such as stumbling to one side), headache and vomiting.
A neurologist (a doctor who has received special additional training in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the brain, spinal cord and nerves) will do a complete examination and neurological evaluation.
Your doctor may request that a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or a computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan be done as well as chest X-rays to check whether the tumor has spread from another part of the body. An MRI usually finds low-grade astrocytomas earlier than CT. Cerebral angiography is rarely used to diagnose a brain tumor, but may be done before surgery.
Depending on the patient's symptoms, specialized tests may be done. These include tests of the field of vision, the sharpness of vision and hearing.
If the results of other tests aren't conclusive, an examination of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord may be done. This is usually unnecessary.
These are often completely removed by surgery, resulting in about a 90% chance of cure. If the tumor recurs, another attempt to completely remove the tumor is often successful. Tumors that are not completely removed tend to recur more often.
To monitor progress, the growth of residual tumors can be followed closely with an magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan taken three to four times a year. Other treatments such as radiation and/or chemotherapy can be used when tumor growth is noted. Because of the possible effects of radiation therapy on the developing brain, radiation should be delayed for children younger than three years old. Chemotherapy can be used to delay, or even omit, the need for radiation.