What is a Glioblastoma?

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.[1]

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
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mem­o­ry loss
  • Mus­cle weakness
  • Nau­sea and vomiting
  • Per­son­al­i­ty and mood changes
  • Prob­lems with speech and language
  • Seizures
  • Sleepi­ness
  • 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:

  • Males
  • 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. 

[1] https://​www​.health​line​.com/hea…

Health Topics:

  • Personalizing cancer care