Anaplastic Astrocytoma

Anaplastic Astrocytoma is a type of cancer that often affects the brain. The word anaplastic or anaplasia denotes the backward differentiation of cells linked to malignancy. It may also refer to the increased ability of cells to multiply. Such a lack of differentiation and upsurge in reproduction are the trademarks of aggressive malignancies. Astrocytes on the other hand refer to the supportive tissues of the brain. These cells are highly distinguishable from other cells because of their highly defined star-form. Therefore, anaplastic astrocytes refer to the cancer of the astrocytes found in the brain.

Image of Anaplastic Astrocytoma

Anaplastic Astrocytoma as seen in an MRI


Since this condition is found in the brain, most of its symptoms are neurological in nature, most of which stem from increased intracranial pressure. The common symptoms include:

    • Headache
    • Vertigo
    • Nausea and Vomiting
    • General Body Malaise
    • Motor Deficiencies
    • Hormonal Imbalances
    • Change in Consciousness, Thought Process, Behaviour and Orientation Problems
    • Seizures


Most cases of anaplastic astrocytoma do not have definite causes, meaning the disease happens sporadically and there is not much that can be done to prevent it. Studies however reveal that it has close links to families that have:

Other causes:

  • Exposure to vinyl chloride
  • High doses of radiation.


The World Health Organization identified four grades for classifying Anaplastic Astrocytoma depending on the cell’s speed to multiply and spread to surrounding tissues. Noninfiltrating astrocytomas grow at a slower pace than infiltrating ones and are less common than the infiltrating types or diffuse astrocytoma.

Grade I

This grade is often the noninfiltrating type. One of its kind is the ACOUSTIC NEUROMA which affects the eight cranial nerves affecting one’s hearing and balance. It may grow at a sluggish pace but can grow to a really big size.  Children and teens are often the ones affected by this grade.

Grade II

This grade covers infiltrating tumor also called as low-grade astrocytoma. The features of its tumor include growing really slow without well-defined borders. This is most prevalent among adults between the age ranges 20-40.

Grade III

It is also called as anaplastic or malignant astrocytoma because compared to the other grades it grows rather quickly and is common among adults aged 30 to 50. It accounts for 4% of all brain tumors. 30-40% of patients are able to survive for 3-5 years.

Grade IV

It is more commonly called Glioblastoma (GBM)which is the most aggressive kind of brain tumor. It is also known as Glioblastoma Multiforme because of the many structures it can take when viewed under the microscope. It affects mostly older individuals aged 50-80 and it accounts for 23% of all primary brain tumors. Patients have decreased chances of surviving this type compared to those in Grade III as they are only given 2 years to survive.


It will be the physician’s role to suggest the right and specific intervention needed to address the specific type of brain tumor. The physician’s choice will depend on the client’s age, overall health and health history, characteristics of the tumor (type, location, size), extent of the illness, ability to withstand specific medications, procedures or therapies, and the doctor’s perception on the progress of the disease. The patient’s opinion or preference may also be taken into account.

The following treatment interventions may be used alone or in combination:

  • Surgery. This may be done for a number of reasons such as treatment of increased intracranial pressure, biopsy and removal of the tumor. Other than that, it can be practiced to facilitate rightful assessment of the disease condition through modern technology such as intra-operative MRI.
  • Radiation Therapy. This is the use of strong-energy radiation rays to shrink and eventually kill tumor cells. Precautionary measures should be practiced in order to avoid the unnecessary complications of radiation therapy.
  • Chemotherapy. This occurs with the use of pharmacological therapies to stop the progress of cancer cells. It aims to attack and avoid the spread of the cancerous cells. For it to be a lot more effective, it can be used in combination with other chemotherapy agents.


Prognosis is done on the patient’s brain tumor so that scientists and other health professionals can come up with a possible cure or treatment to control the illness. It will help patients live a little longer and happier. It shows that the adverse effects experienced will only worsen if no immediate and appropriate medical attention is provided for the patient.

Survival Rate

This condition’s prognosis has come to 3 major conclusions about the patient’s survival rate through its retrospective studies.

  • There is a high probability of 83% chance of surviving or 10 years of overall survival if diagnosed early on and proper interventions are made. If the tumor hasn’t been completely removed, half of the patients are expected to live for the next 5 years.
  • For those with cases of juvenile pilocytic, prognosis reveals that the patients who have been asymptomatic for 5 years have a 60% chance of surviving and a 85% chance for those with 10 years of being symptom-free. The strongest predictor of the outcomes is the extent of the surgical resection. Those with total resection have the highest survival rate.
  • Anaplastic astrocytoma prognoses with High Grade Astrocytoma among youngsters are poorly appreciated. They have a survival rate of 15-20 % when different treatment approaches have been practiced in combination with others such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Outcomes may increase if a full tumor resection has been sought.

Life Expectancy

Generally, a patient is given five years to live if all treatments have been exhausted without success. The reason behind this is the fact that total removal of the tumor is generally impossible, thus increasing the chances of relapse. The life expectancy depends on the amount of tumor removed and how it has already affected the overall brain function of the patient.

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13 Responses to Anaplastic Astrocytoma

  1. Kathy Robinson says:

    my husband was recently diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma between stage 2 and 3.
    What is the prognosis with radiation and chemotherapy. Everything I have read points to about 5 years. I want to know what the basic prognoses is. Is there anyone who can at least try and tell me.

    • Debra Perry says:


    • jean says:

      i have Anaplastic.Astrocytoma. Stage 3. They Didnt Get It All Out. But I Have Not Done Any Chemo/Radiation. I Have Lived For 15 Years Now. But I An Starting To Get Those Bad Server Headaches Again. Im Getting Dizze Again An My Balance Is Off Again Going To Get A Check Up On My Head Next Month . Thats The Soonest They Can See Me. Thats My Email At The Top.

  2. Matt says:

    I was diagnosed in 2003 and had surgery that removed 90% of the tumor. I then went through chemotherapy (temodar) and radiation. So far I haven’t had any recurrence or re-growth of the tumor. Ten years on Nov. 25th.

    • Kathy says:

      Matt would you mind telling what stage your tumor was and what symptoms you experienced? I am so very happy to hear of your success and wish you continued health. Thank you,

      • Matt says:

        I had a grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma and I had very few symptoms. I remember having a loss of where I was. I mean I knew where I was but it was like every hallway was new and not there before. I had one seizure which was what caused me to go to the hospital and was later diagnosed with the tumor. 90% was removed and I was later treated with Temodar and radiation.

  3. heidi says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your husband. I have been diagnosed with grade III anaplastic astrocytoma and everything the doctors have said about prognosis is directly related to how much residual tumor is left over after resection/surgical intervention. Highest life expectancy/survival with total resection of tumor. Did your husband have surgery or is that even a possibility depending on location of tumor?

    Thinking of you and your family. If I can help in any way let me know.


    • Matt says:

      My sister-in-law was just diagnosed yesterday with Anaplastic Astrocytom G3. Just trying to figure out where to start to find a specialist that would consider surgery. I hope you are doing well.

      • Constance Desjardins says:

        Dr.Carlo Pulaseo in Portsmouth N H.He is awesome and saved my sons life.

      • Kathy says:

        This past summer my son-in-law was diagnosed with Anaplastic Astrocytoma G3. He went to Dr. Anton of the Cleveland Clinic who performed the surgery to remove the tumor.

        Dr. Anton was the second opinion. The first thought it was benign and didn’t want to do surgery. My daughter was furious and called family dr. who wasn’t happy about that decision either. Whether it was begin or not, it doesn’t belong there. I don’t know where you live but don’t stop looking until you find a doctor who will do surgery if it is in an area that can be operated on. In fairness, all the doctors thought it was benign but the rest thought it should be removed. If he hadn’t had surgery he would be dead within a few months of the diagnosis. In a month and a half the tumor first being discovered, it increased in size by half and was about the size of a walnut.

        I talked to my oncologist recently about my son-in-law. He said Duke University Hospital (where the BB team is)was the best in the country for brain tumors. My doctor is Dr. Schmotzer in Canton, OH of the Morning Star Cancer Center. He has been designated as one of the top 100 oncologist of the U.S. (not just OH).

        I will keep your family in my prayers. I hope this helped at least a little. Keep fighting.

      • Janelle McDonald says:

        I highly recommend the team at Oregon Health and Science University. Drs Neuwelt and Dr. Cetas.

        We looked at the University of Pittsburgh and Johns Hopkins. All facilities are great and up-to-date. Your sister-in-law needs a Tertiary (or teaching hospital). Oh and Denver.

        Email me and I will give you more names. Let me know where you live. Also, tertiary hospitals will help with medical expenses and other associated costs.


  4. my husband has a recurring stage 2 anaplastic astrocytoma.he was operated on in 2009,then went through 6 weeks of radiation. it came back in jan. of 2013. he went and had gammaknife which is radiation directly to the grew back and he was operated on agaion in aug.2013.he has been on temodar since oct. and its still growing.we currently go to forbes hospital in Monroeville pa.his doctor pretty much said theres nothing else he can do. if anyone out there can tell us where we can go next,please email me. thankyou. sharon

  5. Janelle McDonald says:

    Please see post above. also join the Brain Cancer Family on Facebook. There are lots of people there that might have information


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