Symptoms and Signs of Childhood Astrocytoma (Brain Cancer)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 9/28/2021

Doctor's Notes on Childhood Astrocytoma (Brain Cancer)

Childhood astrocytoma is a form of brain cancer in which cells in the brain start to grow abnormally. Astrocytomas are tumors that start in certain brain cells called astrocytes, which are a type of glial cell. Gliomas are tumors that form from glial cells and astrocytoma is a type of glioma. Astrocytoma is the most common type of glioma diagnosed in children. 

Symptoms of childhood astrocytoma depend on where the tumor forms in the brain or spinal cord, the size of the tumor, how fast the tumor grows, and the child's age and development. Symptoms of childhood astrocytoma may include:

  • morning headache or headache that goes away after vomiting
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • vision and hearing difficulties,
  • speech problems,
  • loss of balance,
  • trouble walking,
  • worsening handwriting,
  • slow speech,
  • weakness or change in feeling on one side of the body,
  • unusual sleepiness,
  • more or less energy than usual,
  • changes in personality or behavior, 
  • seizures,
  • changes in weight for no known reason, and
  • an increase in the size of the head (in infants).

What Is the Treatment for Childhood Astrocytoma?

Treatment for childhood astrocytoma depends on many factors, including the size and exact location of the tumor as well as whether it is considered to be high-grade, or more biologically aggressive, than low-grade tumors. Treatment options may include:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor
  • Observation, following surgery or for small tumors causing no symptoms such as those found with neurofibromatosis type I
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant
  • Targeted therapy, or drugs that attack cells harboring specific alterations
  • Clinical trials that test new types of therapy, such as immunotherapy


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.