Diagnosis of Astrocytoma

Executive Summary

While different tests can determine astrocytoma, there are specific tests that effectively determine the progression of tumor to other body parts, for example, imaging tests determine the spread of tumor within the region. The diagnostic approach of astrocytoma depends upon the suspected type of tumor, symptoms and indicators of the child, the child’s age, and overall health status. The diagnosis depends on suspicious cancer type, in addition to, signs and symptoms, age and general condition of previous medical tests results. The physical examination in astrocytoma diagnosis includes biopsy, imaging tests such as computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and testing at the molecular level.

Diagnostic Approach

In order to discover or diagnose Astrocytoma or CNS tumor, doctors use a variety of tests ​1​. They also run tests to see if the tumor has progressed to other body parts since it first appeared. This is metastasis. Imaging studies, for example, can reveal whether the tumor has spread. 

A biopsy guarantees if an area of the body contains a tumor for most tumor types.

The options for the diagnosis are, When choosing a diagnostic test for your child, your doctor may take into account the following factors:

  • The tumor kind suspected
  • Symptoms and indicators of your child
  • The age of your child and their overall health

The following tests diagnose Astrocytoma ​2​:

Computed Tomography (CT or CAT)

While a CT scan uses x-rays captured from various angles to create images of the inside of the body, a computer combines these images into a detailed, three-dimensional image that reveals anomalies or malignancies. A CT scan determines the size of the tumor, which helps in the diagnosis of Astrocytoma. Before the scan, a specific dye (contrast medium) improves image detail. This dye is delivered as a tablet or injected into a patient’s vein.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) determines the tumor’s size. Before the scan, a contrast medium creates a crisper image. This dye can be injected directly into a patient’s vein or taken as a tablet or drink.


Other tests may indicate the presence of a tumor, but only a biopsy can provide a definitive diagnosis of Astrocytoma. A biopsy determines the kind and degree of Astrocytoma. It can also detect specific molecular characteristics that aid the doctor in treatment planning (see below). A biopsy involves the removal of a tiny bit of tissue from the tumor by a specialist known as a neurosurgeon. A neurosurgeon specializes in utilizing surgery to treat a CNS tumor. A pathologist next examines the material. A pathologist is a clinician who specializes in diagnosing disease by interpreting laboratory tests and assessing cells, tissues, and organs.

Tumor testing at the molecular level

Your child’s doctor may suggest that laboratory tests be performed on a tumor sample to identify specific genes, proteins, and other variables specific to the tumor. These tests’ results can aid in determining your child’s treatment options (see Types of Treatment).

Your child’s doctor will go through all of the results with you when the diagnostic tests are completed. These data can assist the clinician in describing the tumor if the diagnosis is Astrocytoma. It is known as “staging and grading.”


  1. 1.
    Sathornsumetee S, Rich J, Reardon D. Diagnosis and treatment of high-grade astrocytoma. Neurol Clin. 2007;25(4):1111-1139, x. doi:10.1016/j.ncl.2007.07.004
  2. 2.
    See S, Gilbert M. Anaplastic astrocytoma: diagnosis, prognosis, and management. Semin Oncol. 2004;31(5):618-634. doi:10.1053/j.seminoncol.2004.07.004