Glioblastomas, also known as glioblastoma multiforme, are rare cancerous tumors that can occur in the brain or spinal cord. They are an aggressive form of cancer that tend to occur most often in older adults. Though serious, only 15 percent of brain tumors are found to be glioblastomas.
Glioblastomas usually grow in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain but can also be found in other areas of the brain such as the brain stem and cerebellum as well as the spinal cord. Treatment, though difficult, can slow progression of the cancer and reduce its symptoms.
There are two types of glioblastomas:
- Primary glioblastoma — the most common and most aggressive type
- Secondary glioblastoma — less common and typically slower growing
Symptoms can vary based on placement of the tumor, size and rate of growth, including:
- Double vision or blurred vision
- Loss of appetite
- Memory loss
- Muscle weakness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Personality and mood changes
- Problems with speech and language
- Weakness on one side of your body
The exact cause of a glioblastoma is unknown, but we do know they start to form when glial cells in the brain or spinal cord begin to grow uncontrollably, similarly to other cancers. Glioblastomas are not hereditary, but you are at a greater risk of developing them if you are part of one or more of the groups below:
- Over the age of 50
- Being of European or Asian heritage
Glioblastomas are typically diagnosed by a neurologist. They will perform a complete neurological exam along with diagnostic imaging tests such as an MRI or CT to diagnose the cause of symptoms. They may also do a biopsy to test any abnormal tissue found, to determine the presence of cancer.
Glioblastomas are difficult to treat as their finger-like projections reach into the recesses of the brain, making it difficult to remove them completely during surgery. These tumors also contain different types of cells, which may respond differently to treatments. While there is no cure for glioblastomas, there are several different treatments available to help alleviate symptoms:
- Surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible
- Chemotherapy to help slow down tumor growth
- Radiation to kill any cancer cells that were left behind after surgery
These treatments may help with symptoms and possibly put the cancer into remission. In remission, symptoms may be reduced or disappear for a time, but glioblastomas often regrow since not all cancer cells can be removed or killed. If that happens, your oncologist will work with you to develop a care plan to treat any new tumors.
Since glioblastomas spread so quickly, it is important to get screened as soon as possible once you start exhibiting any abnormal symptoms. If you notice symptoms or have questions about glioblastomas, schedule an appointment online with one of our neurologists to be screened. If you have been diagnosed with a glioblastoma and are seeking cancer care, schedule an appointment online with one of our oncologists.