Pediatric pilocytic astrocytoma

Pediatric pilocytic astrocytoma are one of the most common brain tumors found in children. Usually, this type of tumor is benign (non-cancerous). They typically grow slowly and don’t spread to surrounding brain tissue.

At Children’s Health℠, neurosurgeons, radiologists and oncologists from UT Southwestern Medical Center are top experts in treating pediatric cancer. We have years of specialized training and expertise in helping children like yours overcome cancer.

What is a pediatric pilocytic astrocytoma?

Pediatric pilocytic astrocytoma start in astrocytes, which are brain cells that help your central nervous system do tasks like store energy, absorb water and repair tissues.

Pilocytic astrocytomas are part of a group of tumors called low-grade gliomas. These tumors grow slowly and are less likely to spread than other types of brain tumors.

Risk factors

They’re most common in children between ages 5 and 8.

What are the signs and symptoms of a pediatric pilocytic astrocytoma?

  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness and altered mental states
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Balance problems
  • Vision loss
  • Weakness in the arms and legs
  • Missed developmental milestones

How is a pediatric pilocytic astrocytoma diagnosed?

  • Imaging - First, your child will have an MRI, which takes images of their brain. MRIs show us if your child has a tumor, where it's located and how big it is.
  • Biopsy - If we find a tumor, we’ll take a sample of it, called a biopsy. A biopsy allows us to see what type of tumor your child has and if it is cancerous.
  • Treatment plan - After taking detailed pictures and a biopsy of your child’s brain tumor, our team of experts will work together to create a custom treatment plan.

What causes a pediatric pilocytic astrocytoma?

Scientists don’t know exactly what causes pilocytic astrocytoma. Genetics may play a part. Having a family member who has a pilocytic astrocytoma may make you more likely to have one.

How is a pediatric pilocytic astrocytoma treated?

We use a combination of the following therapies to treat children with pilocytic astrocytoma.

  • Surgery - We use surgery to remove tumors in most of our patients (though some patient’s tumors may be in places we can’t operate on). Surgeons work together to plan each child’s surgery, making sure they can remove as much of the tumor as possible without harming the tissue around it.
  • Chemotherapy - This family of medicines can shrink and kill tumors. Children’s Health is home to a team that specializes in using chemotherapy to treat brain tumors in children. They have deep expertise in using these drugs to destroy tumors and keep them from coming back, with as few side effects as possible.
  • Radiation - This type of therapy uses high-energy rays to eliminate cancer cells. Our patients have access to the latest radiation therapies and work together to pick the best one for your child. This includes proton therapy and stereotactic radiosurgery, which target tumors very precisely, without hurting surrounding tissue.

Pediatric pilocytic astrocytoma doctors and providers

The doctors you’ll see at Children’s Health are also on the faculty at UT Southwestern Medical Center. This means they’re among the world’s top experts in treating pediatric cancer, with access to the latest treatments and clinical trials. Learn more about our team.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do pilocytic astrocytomas come back?

    Pilocytic astrocytomas can come back after they are treated, but we do everything we can to prevent that. This includes using radiation after surgery to target any tiny fragments of tumor left after surgery. We also use specialized chemotherapy drugs that target a tumor’s growth pathways to eliminate it and keep it from coming back.