How Long Can You Live with Anaplastic Astrocytoma?

Reviewed on 3/11/2021

Life expectancy for brain cancers such as anaplastic astrocytoma is often expressed in 5-year survival rates, that is, how many people will be alive 5 years after diagnosis. Survival rates can vary widely by age, with younger people tending to have a better outlook than older people.
Life expectancy for brain cancers such as anaplastic astrocytoma is often expressed in 5-year survival rates, that is, how many people will be alive 5 years after diagnosis. Survival rates can vary widely by age, with younger people tending to have a better outlook than older people.

Life expectancy for brain cancers such as anaplastic astrocytoma is often expressed in 5-year survival rates, that is, how many people will be alive 5 years after diagnosis. 

Survival rates can vary widely by age, with younger people tending to have a better outlook than older people. 

  • The 5-year survival rate for grade 1 and 2 anaplastic astrocytoma in children is almost 90% following surgery
  • The 5-year survival rate for adults age 20-44 is 58%
  • The 5-year survival rate for adults age 45-54 is 29%
  • The 5-year survival rate for adults age 55-64 is 15%
  • The survival rates for those 65 or older are generally lower than the rates above

What Is Anaplastic Astrocytoma?

Anaplastic astrocytoma is a rare, cancerous (malignant) type of brain tumor that starts in star-shaped glial cells called astrocytes that surround and protect nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord

About 20% of brain tumors are astrocytomas. 

Astrocytomas may be grouped by grade:

  • Low-grade (grade I or II) astrocytomas tend to grow slowly
    • Non-infiltrating (grade I) astrocytomas
    • Grade II astrocytomas
  • High-grade (grade III or IV) astrocytomas tend to grow quickly and spread into the surrounding normal brain tissue
    • Anaplastic (grade III) astrocytomas
    • Glioblastomas (grade IV)

What Are Symptoms of Anaplastic Astrocytoma?

Symptoms of anaplastic astrocytomas can vary depending on the location and size of the tumor and may include:

  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Changes in personality or mental status
  • Mood changes 
  • Seizures
  • Vision problems/vision loss
  • Weakness in the arms and legs
  • Problems with coordination
  • Gait disturbances
  • Memory problems
  • Paralysis on the side of the body opposite the tumor (hemiplegia)
  • Speech problems 
  • Difficulties with communication through writing (agraphia)
  • Problems with fine motor skills
  • Sensory abnormalities such as tingling or burning sensations (paresthesias)
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Back pain

What Causes Anaplastic Astrocytoma?

The cause of most anaplastic astroctyomas is unknown and most occur sporadically. Factors that may contribute to the development of anaplastic astrocytomas include: 

  • Genetic predisposition (though astroctyomas are usually not inherited)
  • Immunologic abnormalities
  • Environmental factors (e.g., exposure to ultraviolet rays, certain chemicals, ionizing radiation)
  • Diet
  • Stress

Some anaplastic astrocytomas are associated with a few rare, genetic disorders, such as:

How Is Anaplastic Astrocytoma Diagnosed?

Anaplastic astrocytoma is diagnosed with a patient history and physical examination, along with tests such as: 

What Is the Treatment for Anaplastic Astrocytoma?

Treatment for anaplastic astrocytoma may include one or more of the following: 

  • Surgery 
    • Surgical removal of the tumor, usually via craniotomy (surgical opening made in the skull)
    • Surgery to help with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow blockage
    • Surgery to put in a ventricular access catheter
  • Radiation therapy 
    • External beam radiation therapy (EBRT)
    • Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT)
    • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
    • Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) 
    • Conformal proton beam radiation therapy
    • Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS)/stereotactic radiotherapy (SRT)
    • Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT)
    • Brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy)
    • Whole brain and spinal cord radiation therapy (craniospinal radiation)
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Targeted drug therapy
  • Other drug treatments 
    • Corticosteroids such as dexamethasone (Decadron) to reduce swelling around brain tumors and help relieve headaches and other symptoms
    • Anti-seizure drugs (anticonvulsants) to lower the chance of seizures 

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Reviewed on 3/11/2021
References
https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/5860/anaplastic-astrocytoma

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/brain-spinal-cord-tumors-adults.html

https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/anaplastic-astrocytoma/

https://www.thebraintumourcharity.org/brain-tumour-diagnosis-treatment/types-of-brain-tumour-adult/astrocytoma/astrocytoma-prognosis/