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What are thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytomas?

Thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytoma are both a type of glioma — a type of brain tumor — meaning that they develop in the brain’s glial or supportive tissues. Thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytomas develop in the thalamus — a deep-lying part of the brain responsible for identification of sensation, such as temperature, pain, and touch, and a relay center for movement — or the hypothalamus — the brain area just below the thalamus responsible for hormone functioning, body temperature, sleep, and appetite. Sometimes, these tumors can invade both areas.

Thalamic Astrocytoma and Hypothalamic Astrocytoma | Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytomas?

Since thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytomas grow relatively slowly, a child may have been having symptoms for many months prior to diagnosis, or his symptoms may appear more suddenly. Many symptoms are associated with increased pressure in the brain, including:

  • headache — generally upon awakening in the morning
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fatigue
  • weakness on one side of the body
  • symptoms of hormone imbalance, including weight loss/gain
  • symptoms of salt and water imbalance, including frequent urination
  • changes in vision

Thalamic Astrocytoma and Hypothalamic Astrocytoma | Diagnosis & Treatments

How are thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytomas diagnosed?

A physician may order a number of different tests to best diagnose thalamic or hypothalamic astrocytoma, including:

After all tests are completed, doctors will be able to outline the best treatment options.

What are the treatment options for thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytomas?

A number of treatments may be recommended for thalamic or hypothalamic astrocytomas. Some help treat the tumor, while others address complications of the disease or side effects of treatment. These include:

Progressive or recurrent disease

There are many standard and experimental treatment options for children with recurrent or progressive thalamic or hypothalamic astrocytomas. If a tumor recurs after initial surgical removal or the tumor regrows after partial removal, a doctor may recommend a second attempt at removing as much of the tumor as possible.

How we care for thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytomas

Children and adolescents with thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytomas are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Glioma Program, one of the largest and most experienced pediatric glioma programs in the world, and part of the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Brain Tumor Center.

Our glioma specialists — a team of neuro-oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, and radiation oncologists — focus solely on the care of children diagnosed with gliomas. The Glioma Program also offers families the chance to have their child's tumor molecularly profiled (as long as a biopsy can be taken), which may help identify opportunities for targeted treatment.

Thalamic Astrocytoma and Hypothalamic Astrocytoma | Programs & Services