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An astrocytoma is a brain tumor that comes from the supporting cells of the brain, the glial cells.  Astrocytomas are 'graded' 1-4, with a grade '4' tumor being the most aggressive.  Astrocytomas are also described in the following fashion.  


  • Grade 1 astrocytoma--> Pilocytic astrocytoma
  • Grade 2 astrocytoma--> Low grade astrocytoma
  • Grade 3 astrocytoma--> Anaplastic astrocytoma
  • Grade 4 astrocytoma--> Glioblastoma or glioblastoma multiforme or GBM


Treatment of these tumors is complex, often involving a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.  In addition, clinical trials are frequently used in the advanced treatment of these tumors.  The UCSD neuro-oncology program supports a large number of clinical trials in an ongoing basis.


 When a patient 1st years that they have a brain tumor diagnosis or possible astrocytoma, there are many questions which arise.  Some questions include:

  • What is the proper evaluation for these tumors?  Do I need an MRI scan?  Are there other imaging studies that are useful?
  • Should I have a biopsy or should I have an attempted removal of the tumor?
  • If the tumor is located near a critical area, can still be removed?
  • What are the implications if the tumor is a low-grade tumor versus a high-grade tumor?
  • Are astrocytoma tumors cancerous?
  • Will I need chemotherapy?
  • Will I need radiation therapy?

 Answers to these questions and more are found on our frequently asked questions page.

Organization with more information include: