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What Is an Astroblastoma?

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  • Written By: Cindy Quarters
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 05 September 2016
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An astroblastoma is a type of tumor usually found in either the brain or spinal cord, made up of cells with rich amounts of cytoplasm with between two and three nuclei. As a rule, the cells of an astroblastoma lie around blood vessels or around the septum of connective tissue. This type of tumor is rare and difficult to classify, and typically affects young adults, though it can be found in people of other ages as well. The prognosis for this type of brain cancer is generally very poor. Symptoms of this malignant tumor depend on where it is located.

One of the more common symptoms of this or any other type of brain tumor is the onset of headaches. The frequency and intensity of the headaches will increase over time as the astroblastoma grows and the pressure on the brain increases. Headaches will vary in character depending on which part of the brain the tumor is in. They may not appear as recognizable symptoms until the tumor is quite large and is exerting a great deal of pressure inside the skull.

Other common symptoms that may signal the presence of an astroblastoma are dizziness, unexplained nausea, blurred vision, and difficulty with balance. The tumor may also trigger vomiting, confusion, and seizures. Patients experiencing these types of symptoms, especially if they persist for any length of time or seem to be getting worse, should consult a physician.

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An astroblastoma has a unique appearance on an x-ray, appearing dark and solid, with very little fluid in and around the area. It typically consists of multiple lobes and the solid portions tend to look bubbly. The division between the astroblastoma and the brain matter is very distinct. It tends to form around a central blood vessel or around connective tissue related to the central nervous system.

This malignant growth is considered to be a primary glial cell tumor. That means that it grows in the glial cells, one of the primary cell types for much of the area of the brain. These cells are more common than neurons and are found throughout the cerebellum, the midbrain, and the cerebrum as well as some other areas, making these areas among the most common places for an astroblastoma to grow.

Treatment for an astroblastoma depends in part on the location; often the tumor can be surgically removed, if it is accessible. In some cases surgery is neither practical or desirable, and attempting to remove the tumor can do more harm than good. This is also true if the patient is in poor health, as he or she may not heal well from such an operation. Radiation and chemotherapy are also commonly used, and may either destroy the growth completely or reduce its effects significantly.

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