Glioblastoma, also known as glioblastoma multiforme, is an aggressive type of brain cancer. They can occur at any age, but glioblastomas are typically found in older adults. Typically, glioblastomas can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, weakness, and seizures.
Glioblastomas develop from cells called astrocytes – the glial cells of the central nervous system. Once glioblastomas are diagnosed, they can be difficult to treat. A cure is not always possible, but treatment may slow the progression of the cancer and alleviate the worst symptoms.
What Causes Glioblastomas?
Research suggests that 5 percent of all glioblastomas are caused by hereditary conditions, according to the Moffitt Cancer Center, but for the large majority of glioblastomas, the causes are unknown.
Inherited DNA defects, long-term exposure to chemicals and carcinogens, and high-dose exposure to ionizing radiation could all potentially cause glioblastoma, but there are many different potential causes that have yet to be identified.
Treatment for Glioblastomas
As mentioned, treatments for glioblastomas may cure the problem but will often merely slow the spreading of the cancer and reduce signs and symptoms. With this in mind, there are a number of treatment options for patients with glioblastomas:
- Biopsy: It is usually important to obtain a tissue diagnosis to confirm a glioblastoma. Other tumors may look similar, but would benefit from different treatments. A biopsy is often a simple procedure that can provide very useful information that can be used to tailor a treatment plan.
- Surgical Removal: one of the most effective treatments is surgical removal of the glioblastoma. Your neurosurgeon will attempt to remove as much of the tumor as possible, but because these types of tumors grow into the normal brain tissue, complete removal is not possible. Additional treatment, with the direction of your neurosurgeon, is usually needed after surgery to treat the remaining tumor cells.
- Radiation Therapy: radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. This may include X-rays or stereotactic radiosurgery and is administered with the patient lying on a table while a high-precision machine targets the cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy: In many cases, Temodar, an oral chemotherapy, may be taken as a pill after surgery, or other chemotherapy medicines may be administered through a vein. In some cases, thin wafers containing chemotherapy medicine can be placed on the remaining cancer cells during surgery. These wafers dissolve and release the medicine directly.
- Clinical Trials: studies of new treatments, known as clinical trials, may be an option for some patients with glioblastomas. These are often a last resort, as the side effects of the treatment are often unknown and not all patients are always eligible.
While the treatment of glioblastomas is challenging and a cure is not always possible, there are options available to patients with this diagnosis that can slow the progress of the cancer and alleviate the most severe symptoms.
For glioblastomas, treatment may require a combination of the methods listed above. It’s always best to consult with your physician and/or neurosurgeon to determine the best steps to recovery for you.
To learn more, continue reading about glioblastoma surgery and treatment from Hudson Valley Brain & Spine Surgery.