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Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytomas

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A juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma (JPA) is a slow-growing brain tumor that develops — usually in children and adolescents — from cells called astrocytes. Astrocytes are glial cells, meaning that they are a type of cell that supports nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, so a juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma is a kind of glioma. Unlike other gliomas, though, juvenile pilocytic astrocytomas are considered low grade, meaning that they are very benign tumors and the prognosis for recovery is excellent.

A juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma is a cystic (fluid-filled) tumor, not a solid mass. On the World Health Organization’s grading scale, a JPA is a Grade I tumor, highly unlikely to grow or to spread to other areas. Other types of gliomas in children include:

  • Fibrillary astrocytoma. This Grade II astrocytoma is benign, but it infiltrates into surrounding brain tissue so it’s difficult to remove it surgically.
  • Anaplastic astrocytoma.  This is a Grade III (malignant) astrocytoma.   
  • Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). This rapidly growing Grade IV tumor is the most malignant kind of astrocytoma.

Read more about types of brain tumors in children.

A juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma can develop anywhere there are astrocytes, which exist throughout the brain and spine.  JPAs commonly develop in the cerebellum, at the back of the brain; near the optic nerve;  in the brainstem; or in the cerebrum. Depending on its location, a JPA can cause different symptoms as it causes pressure on different areas of the brain (see Symptoms of a Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma).

What Causes Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma?
It’s not known what causes the abnormal cell division that leads to a brain tumor. But there is no way to prevent them, and there’s nothing you can do to reduce a child’s risk of developing one.

Call our Pediatric Brain and Spine Center at 212-746-2363 to make an appointment for an evaluation, or use our online form to request an appointment.

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Reviewed by: Jeffrey Greenfield, Ph.D., M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: August 2018
Illustration by Thom Graves, CMI