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Diffuse astrocytoma grade II, also referred to as low-grade astrocytoma, is typically an infiltrating tumor. This type of brain tumor generally grows at a slow pace and it often lacks well-defined borders. It is most often seen in adults between 20 and 40 years of age. It develops from the star-shaped cells responsible for supporting nerve cells and is a type of glioma. In rare cases, it spreads to other areas of the central nervous system.
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Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms are dependent on the patient and vary among patients. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Personality or mood changes
- Frequent headaches
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in the patient's ability to learn and think
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To detect a diffuse astrocytoma grade II, tests that look at the spinal cord and brain are performed. A CT scan is used to get a series of pictures that are detailed of the spinal cord and brain. A dye may be used that is injected into a vein or swallowed. This dye helps the tissues or organs be more clear on the pictures taken.
An MRI may be performed to take a series of pictures of the spinal cord and brain that are detailed. Gadolinium is injected into a vein and will collect around any cancer cells that are present and cause them to be brighter in the picture.
Doctors perform a biopsy by removing a portion of the skull and then taking a needle to remove a small piece of brain tissue. This is then further examined using a microscope by a pathologist to look for the presence of cancer cells.
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When possible, surgery is performed to remove the entire tumor, or as much of the tumor as safely possible.
Radiation therapy is another common treatment. It uses radiation, such as high-energy x-rays, to kill cancer cells. External radiation therapy is a type of radiation that sends radiation towards the cancer using a machine outside the body. Internal radiation therapy uses radioactive substances that are sealed in wires, catheters, seeds, or needles, that are placed near or directly in the cancer. The stage of the cancer and the type will determine the type of radiation used.
Chemotherapies are drugs administered to cancer patients to stop cancer cell growth by preventing cell division or killing the cells. The drugs enter the patient's bloodstream when injected into a muscle or vein, or taken by mouth, and reach the cancer cells located throughout the body. When chemotherapy drugs are directly placed into an organ, into the spinal cord, or into the abdomen or other body cavity, they will primarily affect the cancer cells that are located in those areas. After surgery is performed to remove the tumor, anticancer drugs may be directly administered to the site of the brain tumor using a dissolving wafer. The stage of the cancer and the type will determine the type of chemotherapy used and how it is administered.
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National Brain Tumor Society. (2011). Low-Grade Astrocytoma. Retrieved on January 28, 2011 from the National Brain Tumor Society: http://www.braintumor.org/patients-family-friends/about-brain-tumors/tumor-types/low-grade-astrocytoma.html
Siteman Cancer Center. (2005). Adult Brain Tumors. Retrieved on January 28, 2011 from the Siteman Cancer Center: http://www.siteman.wustl.edu/contentpage.aspx?id=1566