What Is Glioblastoma?
If you’ve been diagnosed with
glioblastoma, there are treatments to help you live better and ease your symptoms.
Read on to learn more about
brain cancer, so you can take action to get the best care.
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For some, however, the diagnosis was painfully familiar. WebMD talked to three survivors of brain cancer similar to that affecting the senator, including two who have survived it for more than 10 years. Their advice to Kennedy: Don't listen to statistics, and don't give up hope.
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Where It Forms in the Brain
Glioblastoma is a type of
astrocytoma, a cancer that forms from star-shaped cells in the brain called astrocytes. In adults, this cancer usually starts in the cerebrum, the largest part of your brain.
How Common Is It?
Almost 1 in 5 tumors that start in the
brain are glioblastomas. Men are more likely to get them than women. And chances go up with age.
How Serious Is It?
Glioblastoma tumors are usually highly malignant, or cancerous. These are grade 4 tumors, which means they can grow fast and spread quickly.
Glioblastoma tumors make their own
blood supply, which helps them grow. It's easy for them to invade normal brain tissue.
Because glioblastomas grow quickly, pressure on the brain usually causes the first symptoms. Depending on where the tumor is, it can cause:
How Tumors Become Glioblastoma
There are two types:
Primary glioblastoma is the most common. It starts out as a grade 4 tumor and is very aggressive.
Secondary glioblastoma starts as a grade 2 or 3 tumor, which grow slower. Then it becomes grade 4. About 10% of glioblastomas are this type. They tend to happen when you're 45 or younger.
A neurologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating brain disorders, will give you a complete exam. It may include an
MRI or CT scan and other tests, depending on your symptoms.
The goal of glioblastoma treatment is to slow and control tumor growth and improve your quality of life. There are 4 treatments available often in combination:
Surgery is the first treatment. The surgeon tries to remove as much of the tumor as possible. In high-risk areas of the brain, the surgeon may not be able to remove all of a tumor.
is used to kill as many leftover tumor cells as possible after surgery. It can also slow the growth of tumors that can't be removed by surgery. Radiation
Chemotherapy may also be used. Temozolomide is the most common chemotherapy drug used for glioblastoma. Chemotherapy can cause short-term side effects, but it is much less toxic than it used to be.