The treatment of an astrocytoma depends on the type, size and location of the cancer. Treatment measures usually include a combination of surgery, corticosteroid medications, anticonvulsants, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Treatment options for astrocytoma include:
- Oral corticosteroid medications:
- Reduce swelling inside the brain
- Anticonvulsant medications:
- To control seizures
- Ventriculoperitoneal shunt:
- To relieve pressure on the brain caused by hydrocephalus
- Chemotherapy for astrocytoma:
- Temozolomide (Temodar)
- Carboplatin (Paraplatin)
- Vincristine (Oncovin)
- Carmustine (BiCNU)
- Cisplatin (Platinol)
- Medications for nausea and vomiting:
- Aprepitant (Emend)
- Dolasetron (Anzemet)
- Granisetron (Kytril)
- Metoclopramide (Reglan)
- Ondansetron (Zofran)
- Palonosetron (Aloxi)
- Prochlorperazine (Compazine, Compro)
- Promethazine (Phenergan)
- Radiation therapy for astrocytoma
- Bone marrow transplant
- Surgery for astrocytoma:
- Removal of the tumor
- Depends on location and size of tumor
Astrocytoma Bone Marrow Transplant
Another approach to chemotherapy for astrocytoma uses autologous bone marrow transplantation (BMT). This allows doctors to replace the patient's original bone marrow after giving very high doses of chemotherapy.
In this procedure, bone marrow stem cells are taken from the patient's body. Next, very high-dose chemotherapy is given in attempt to kill all the brain cancer cells. This will also destroy all the bone marrow cells. After the drugs have been given, the stem cells are returned to the body. Here they can reproduce and restore normal bone marrow function.
Bone marrow transplant complications:
Chemotherapy can be used for astrocytoma when surgery and radiation have not been successful. Usually, chemotherapy medications are given through an intravenous line.
Some chemotherapy drugs do not penetrate into the brain very well when given through a vein. For this reason, medications are often delivered directly into the spinal fluid through implanted catheters.
Some cancer centers are implanting microspheres into the brain. These microscopic implants deliver chemotherapy directly to the brain tumor.
Chemotherapy drugs for astrocytoma:
Medications for astrocytoma may include:
Astrocytoma Questions For Doctor
The following are some important questions to ask before and after the treatment of astrocytoma.
Questions to ask before treatment:
- What are my treatment options?
- Is surgery an option for me?
- What are the risks associated with treatment?
- Do I need to stay in the hospital?
- How long will I be in the hospital?
- What are the complications I should watch for?
- How long will I be on medication?
- What are the potential side effects of my medication?
- Does my medication interact with nonprescription medicines or supplements?
- Should I take my medication with food?
Questions to ask after treatment:
- Do I need to change my diet?
- Do I need to lose weight?
- Are there any medications or supplements I should avoid?
- When can I resume my normal activities?
- When can I return to work?
- Do I need a special exercise program?
- Will I need physical therapy?
- Will I need occupational therapy?
- Will I need speech therapy?
- Are my children at risk for this condition?
- How often will I need to see my doctor for checkups?
- What local support and other resources are available?
Astrocytoma Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy for astrocytoma uses a highly-focused dose of radiation directed at a small area of the brain tumor. It requires specialized scanning equipment, and 3-dimensional imaging. Another name for this method is a gamma knife.
Gamma knife devices allow doctors to deliver a precise dose of radiation to the tumor, with a minimal effect on surrounding brain tissue.
Complications of radiation therapy may include:
Physicians from the following specialties evaluate and treat an astrocytoma:
Some astrocytomas are deeply embedded in the brain and surrounded by vital structures or blood vessels. This makes many tumors impossible to remove completely without damaging other parts of the brain. Following surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy may be used to decrease the risk of recurrence.
Some astrocytomas may require the placement of a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt to correct hydrocephalus (increased fluid pressure inside the brain). A VP shunt is a tube that drains extra fluid from around the brain, into the abdominal cavity. The tube runs from the head to the abdomen, under the skin.
Continue to Astrocytoma Home Care
- Guha A, Mukherjee J. Advances in the biology of astrocytomas. Curr Opin Neurol. 2004 Dec;17(6):655-62. 
- Ichimura K, Ohgaki H, Kleihues P, Collins VP. Molecular pathogenesis of astrocytic tumours. J Neurooncol. 2004 Nov;70(2):137-60. 
- See SJ, Gilbert MR. Anaplastic astrocytoma: diagnosis, prognosis, and management. Semin Oncol. 2004 Oct;31(5):618-34.