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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Pilocytic astrocytoma

Other Names for this Disease
  • Juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma
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What is pilocytic astrocytoma?

What causes pilocytic astrocytoma?

Are pilocytic astrocytomas inherited?

What is pilocytic astrocytoma?

Pilocytic astrocytoma is an often benign, slow-growing tumor of the brain or spinal cord. The tumor may be in the form of a cyst and usually does not spread to nearby tissues. Symptoms vary depending upon the size and location of the tumor. Most symptoms result from increased pressure on the brain and include headaches, nausea, vomiting, balance problems, and vision abnormalities. The underlying cause of a pilocytic astrocytoma is unknown. It most commonly occurs in children and young adults, and in people with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis. This type of tumor can often be cured with surgery.[1][2][3]
Last updated: 8/9/2013

What causes pilocytic astrocytoma?

The exact underlying cause of pilocytic astrocytomas is currently unknown. Although most are thought to be sporadic (occurring by chance in an affected individual), they are known to be associated with certain genetic disorders including neurofibromatosis type I (NF1), Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis.[4]
Last updated: 8/14/2013

Are pilocytic astrocytomas inherited?

Pilocytic astrocytomas are typically sporadic, occurring by chance in individuals with no history of the condition in the family. Sporadic abnormalities are not inherited from a parent and are not likely to recur in a family. Familial cases of isolated astrocytomas are very rare.[5]

Although most individuals with a pilocytic astrocytoma do not have an underlying genetic condition, astrocytomas have been associated with a few "predisposing" genetic syndromes. Individuals with these syndromes will not necessarily develop one; these tumors just occur with a greater frequency in affected individuals. Genetic syndromes in which astrocytomas have been reported to occur include:[5]

All of these genetic conditions follow an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance. Individuals who are interested in learning about personal genetic risks for these conditions and/or genetic testing options for themselves or family members should speak with a genetics professional.

Last updated: 8/14/2013

  1. General Information About Adult Brain Tumors. National Cancer Institute (NCI). July 2011; Accessed 9/16/2011.
  2. Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma. National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). 2007; Accessed 9/15/2011.
  3. Pilocytic Astrocytoma. National Brain Tumor Society. 2013; Accessed 8/9/2013.
  4. Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma. NORD. 2007; Accessed 8/9/2013.
  5. Jacques Grill. Astrocytoma. Orphanet. November 2007; Accessed 8/14/2013.