Although there is no cure, there are treatments to help ease symptoms.
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?
Brain cancers aren’t common. And when they do happen, about 4 out of 5 aren’t glioblastomas. Men are more likely to get them than women. And chances go up with age. From 2009 to 2013, doctors diagnosed nearly 11,000 glioblastoma cases in the U.S. each year.
Because glioblastomas grow quickly, pressure on the brain usually causes the first symptoms. Depending on where the tumor is, it can cause:
- Constant headaches
- Trouble thinking
- Changes in mood or personality
- Double or blurred vision
- Trouble speaking
The goal of glioblastoma treatment is to slow and control tumor growth and help you live as comfortably and as well as possible. There are four treatments, and many people get more than one type:
Surgery is the first treatment. The surgeon tries to remove as much of the tumor as possible. In high-risk areas of the brain, it may not be possible to remove all of it.
Radiation 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.
Doctors can treat glioblastoma that comes back with another chemotherapy drug called carmustine (or BCNU).
Electric field therapy uses electrical fields to target cells in the tumor while not hurting normal cells. To do this, doctors put electrodes directly on the scalp. The device is called Optune. You get it with chemotherapy after surgery and radiation. The FDA has approved it for both newly diagnosed people and people whose glioblastoma has come back.
At major cancer centers, you may also be able to get experimental treatments or oral chemotherapy, which you take at home.
Glioblastomas often regrow. If that happens, doctors may be able to treat it with surgery and a different form of radiation and chemotherapy.
You may also want to ask your doctor if there’s a clinical trial that would be a good fit for you.
Outlook and Survival Rates
Many things can affect how well someone does when they have cancer, including glioblastomas. Doctors often can’t predict what someone’s life expectancy will be if they have a glioblastoma. But they do have statistics that track how large groups of people who’ve had these conditions tend to do over time.
For glioblastoma, the survival rates are:
- One year: 39.3%
- Two years: 16.9%
- Three years: 9.9%
- Four years: 7.0%
- Five years: 5.5%
- Ten years: 2.9%
Younger people tend to fare the best.