Treatment for pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma

Find out about treatment for the rare type of brain tumour called pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma.

Treatment options

Your doctor (or your child’s doctor) and their specialist medical team will decide on the treatment you need based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • the type, site, and size of the tumour
  • whether the tumour has spread into nearby tissues
  • how well you are likely to cope with procedures and treatments
  • how your doctors expect the tumour to develop
  • your opinion and wishes

The treatment may include surgery or radiotherapy, or both.

Pleomorphic xanthoastrocytomas have a high chance of cure, with long term survival rates of between 8 and 9 out of 10 (80 to 90%). The chance of cure is best if surgeons can remove the whole tumour.

Anaplastic PXA (high grade) are more difficult to treat and usually the neuro-oncology team recommend radiotherapy after your surgery. 


The main treatment is to remove as much of the tumour as possible. You might not need any further treatment if your tumour has been completely removed. But you will have regular MRI scans to check whether the tumour has come back. Removing the tumour usually gets rid of any symptoms.

You usually have further surgery if the tumour couldn't be completely removed and then starts to grow. The aim is to try to remove as much of the tumour as possible.


Radiotherapy uses high energy rays (radiation) to damage or kill cancer cells and shrink tumours.

Doctors sometimes recommend radiotherapy after surgery if the tumour cannot be completely removed. But it is not clear how helpful this is, so more research is needed.

Your doctor might recommend radiotherapy alone if surgery is not possible for you. The aim would be to shrink the tumour and control it for a time.

Treatment side effects

After treatment for pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma, you might have short term side effects.

Your doctors might prescribe dexamethasone to reduce any raised pressure in the head during or after surgery. The dose is usually gradually reduced over a few weeks. If the surgery causes fits (seizures), your doctors will prescribe anti epileptic medicines.

The area of the surgery will affect the possible long term side effects you might have. Your surgeon will discuss any possible side effects fully with you before the operation.

If it comes back

You would usually have further surgery if your tumour comes back. Your surgeon would try to remove as much of the tumour as possible. Your doctors might recommend radiotherapy if you can't have surgery for any reason.


Coping with a brain tumour

It can be very difficult to cope with the diagnosis of a brain tumour. But there is help and support available.

Last reviewed: 
04 Dec 2012
  • Cancer Principles and practice of oncology (8th edition)
    VT. De Vita, TS. Lawrence, and SA. Rosenberg
    Lippincott, Wiliams and Wilkins, 2008

  • Pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma of the brain: MR findings in six patients
    R D Tien, C A Cardenas and S Rajagopalan
    American Journal of Roentgenology Volume 1992. 159, Issue 6

  • Pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma: what do we really know about it?
    C. Giannini (and others)
    Cancer. 1999 May 1;85(9):2033-45

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