Spinal Astrocytoma

About Spinal Astrocytoma

Spinal Astrocytoma is a spinal cord tumor that comes from cells within the spinal cord itself. The cells are often “invasive,” meaning they are intermingled with functional nerve tissue. Most spinal astrocytomas are low grade however they can transition to more aggressive tumors. Astrocytomas may cause neurological compromise if they put pressure on your spinal cord or nerves or invade normal tissue. Complete resection with surgery can be difficult, often requiring additional treatments such radiation after biopsy.

Common Symptoms of Spinal Astrocytoma

Patients with a spinal astrocytoma usually display symptoms at the level or below the spinal cord tumor. Some common symptoms of a spinal astrocytoma include:

  • Neck or back pain
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Problems controlling bladder/bowels
  • Mild spasticity
  • Difficulty walking

Diagnosis of Spinal Astrocytoma

A contrast enhanced MRI of the spine in a closed facility is usually the diagnostic choice for evaluating a patient with a suspected spinal astrocytoma. This type of MRI clearly shows the extent of the tumor, enhancement pattern of the tumor, and if any cysts are present. The location of the tumor is based on findings from the preoperative MRI.

Treatment Options for Spinal Astrocytoma

Small spinal astrocytomas that are not causing symptoms may not need to be treated right away. Surgery is typically the first option when the tumors are large or cause symptoms. Unfortunately complete resection of the tumor may not be possible, with radiation used after to treat residual tumor. If surgery is not a feasible option, radiation by itself may be recommended.