Diffuse astrocytoma, also known as astrocytoma type II, is characterized by slow growing tumors in the brain. Diffuse means that they can spread into the surrounding regions of the brain. They can be found in any part of the brain; however, they are most commonly found in the cerebral hemispheres or the "thinking" parts of the brain.
Diffuse astrocytomas are part of a larger group of tumors called gliomas because they arise from specialized glial tissue of the brain. Astrocytomas particularly arise from the supportive tissue cells of the brain called astrocytes. There are four types of astrocytomas ranging from I-IV and are defined by tumor growth speed and the way in which it spreads. Diffuse astrocytomas are type II.
Symptoms of diffuse astrocytoma include headaches, seizures, memory loss, and changes in behavior. It can be diagnosed via MRI or CT scanning and then may be biopsied to determine the grade of the tumor. Treatment options depend on the type, size, and location of the tumor, if and how far it has spread, as well as the patient’s overall health. For diffuse astrocytoma, if the tumor is accessible and can be removed, then only additional follow-up scans are needed. Radiation may also be used as a supplemental treatment to surgery. Diffuse astrocytomas are typically seen in young adults but can also be diagnosed in children and seniors. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diffuse astrocytoma, talk to your doctor about treatment options. Support groups are also good sources of information and support.