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Symptoms and Signs of Astrocytoma

Symptoms and signs of astrocytoma result from increased pressure as an astrocytoma grows and presses against brain structures.

The effects of astrocytoma vary depending upon the area of the brain affected and the size and grade of the tumor. Noticeable effects of grade I and grade II astrocytomas may be quite subtle because the brain is able to temporarily adapt to the presence of a slow-growing tumor, while the symptoms and signs of grade III and grade IV astrocytomas may be sudden and debilitating. Any of the following symptoms should prompt consultation with a physician:

  • Seizures (most individuals with astrocytoma experience seizures)
  • Altered sensations (strange smells, hallucinations relating to sense of smell)
  • Behavior and mood changes; changes in personality
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty with balance
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches not alleviated by painkillers, worse in the morning, may cause nausea/vomiting
  • Memory loss
  • Muscular weakness on one side of body and loss of control of bodily movements
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Visual loss (altered vision or visual hallucinations); double or blurred vision

The seizures caused by astrocytoma may manifest as twitching or jerky movements in the face, arm, or leg. Sometimes a seizure in a person with astrocytoma is described as an episode in which the individual appears detached, or staring. Rarely, astrocytomas that infiltrate the spinal cord can cause weakness and disability related to the function of the nerves where the tumor is located (such as bowel or bladder problems). Fatigue and depression are common in individuals with an astrocytoma.

Reviewed by: Rohan Ramakrishna, MD
Last reviewed/last updated: December 2020