also known as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), is the most aggressive
types of cancer that can occur in the brain or spinal cord. This malicious
cancer forms from cells called astrocytes that support nerve cells
Its initial symptoms are nonspecific, including a single
seizure, progressive headaches, personality changes, nausea, and symptoms similarto those of a stroke. But worsening of
symptoms can lead to unconsciousness. Treatments may slow progression of the
cancer and manage symptoms, but cure is almost impossible.
Glioblastoma tends to afflict older adults more than people of other age groups. However, it’s a rare disease affecting less than 200,000 people in the US population.
Like most primary brain tumors, scientists haven’t figured out the
exact cause of glioblastoma. But the following factors may account for the
increasing risk of a brain tumor.
evidence has indicated an association between glioblastoma and age. It mostly occurs
in adults between ages 45 and 65 years old. But an exception is that children
and young adults are more commonly affected by certain types of GBM, such as
ependymomas and pilocytic astrocytomas.
radiation is the only type of radiation confirmed to be the exact risk factor,
particularly when it is projected to a person’s head and neck region.
Inherited gene mutations account for a small percentage of glioblastomas, but more study is needed to confirm the weak link.
symptoms of glioblastoma vary according to the tumor’s size, location and rate
Symptoms related to the increased brain pressure
or a decline in brain function
Symptoms related to the tumor location
impairment, memory loss, and inability to concentrate
or numbness in the limbs
- Personality changes and mood changes
- Urinary incontinence
If a patient is suspected with glioblastoma, he or she will be given
a number of tests and procedures.
During a neurological exam, the patient will be checked with a
series of neurologic functions, such as vision, hearing, balance, coordination
and alertness, strength and reflexes, to identify the potential existence of glioblastoma.
- Imaging tests
MRI, CT, PET scans allow doctors to detect the presence of a tumor,
with the help of dye (a contrast agent) occasionally.
In this procedure, a neurosurgeon collects a small sample of
abnormal cells to test in a pathology laboratory. The cell death is the main
clue to glioblastoma.
Possible ways of treatment won’t permanently cure glioblastoma
but will help extend the patients’ survival time. Common treatment includes:
first step to treat glioblastoma is to remove as much of the tumor as possible
in a surgery. The doctor will remove a tumor completely if it is safe, but even
partial removal will do good to the patient’s health.
Chemotherapy is given to the whole body to help
shrink a tumor or kill off any cancer cells left behind after surgery.
- Radiation therapy
Radiation may help control the growth of the tumor as an alternative
to surgery. A Gamma Knife or linear accelerator (LINAC) are two common types of
technology used in this therapy.
Drugs such as steroids and anti-seizure medications are required to reduce the symptoms of glioblastoma. Bevacizumab (Avastin) is a specific drug that stops the formation of new blood vessels and kills the tumor cells.