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Glioblastoma is an aggressive type of cancer that can form in the brain or spinal cord. Glioblastoma consists of cells called astrocytes that support nerve cells.

Glioblastoma can occur at any age, but tends to occur more often in older adults. It can cause worsening headaches, nausea, vomiting, and seizures.

Glioblastoma, also known as glioblastoma multiforme, can be very difficult to treat and often untreatable. Treatments can slow the progression of cancer and reduce signs and symptoms.


Tests and procedures used to diagnose glioblastoma include:

Neurological examination. During the neurological examination, your doctor will ask you about your signs and symptoms. It can check your vision, hearing, balance, coordination, strength and reflexes. Problems in one or more of these areas can provide clues about the part of your brain that may be affected by a brain tumor.

Imaging tests. Imaging tests can help your doctor determine the location and size of your brain tumor. MRI is often used to diagnose brain tumors and can be used in conjunction with functional MRI and specialized MRI imaging such as magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

Other imaging tests may include CT and positron emission tomography (PET).

Removing a sample of tissue for testing (biopsy). Depending on your particular situation and the location of your tumor, a needle biopsy may be done to remove your glioblastoma before or during surgery. Suspicious tissue sample is analyzed in a laboratory to determine cell types and aggression levels.

Special tests of tumor cells can tell your doctor the types of mutations the cells have acquired. This gives your doctor clues about your prognosis and can guide your treatment options.


Glioblastoma treatment options include:

Surgery to remove the glioblastoma. Your neurosurgeon (neurosurgeon) will work to remove the glioblastoma. The goal is to remove as much of the tumor as possible. However, since glioblastoma grows into normal brain tissue, complete removal is not possible. This is why most people receive additional treatments after surgery to target the cells that remain.

Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays such as X-rays or protons to kill cancer cells. During radiation therapy, you lie on a table while a machine moves around you, directing the rays to precise spots in your brain.

Radiation therapy is usually recommended after surgery and can be combined with chemotherapy. For people who cannot have surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be used as primary treatment.

Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. In some cases, thin, circular wafers containing chemotherapy drugs may be placed in your brain during surgery. The wafers slowly dissolve, releasing the drug and killing the cancer cells.

After surgery, the chemotherapy drug temozolomide (Temodar), taken as a pill, is usually used during and after radiation therapy.

If your glioblastoma recurs, other types of chemotherapy may be recommended. These other types of chemotherapy are usually administered through a vein in your arm.

Tumor treatment fields (TTF) therapy. TTF uses an electric field to disrupt the ability of tumor cells to proliferate. TTF involves applying adhesive pads to your scalp. The pads are connected to a portable device that generates an electric field.

TTF is combined with chemotherapy and may be recommended after radiation therapy.

Targeted drug therapy. Targeted drugs focus on specific abnormalities in cancer cells that allow them to grow and develop. The drugs attack these abnormalities and cause the cancer cells to die.

Bevacizumab (Avastin) targets the signals that glioblastoma cells send to the body that cause new blood vessels to form, and provides blood and nutrients to the cancer cells. Bevacizumab may be an option if your glioblastoma recurs or does not respond to other treatments.

Supportive (palliative) care. Palliative care is specialized medical care that focuses on relieving the pain and other symptoms of a serious illness. Palliative care professionals work with you, your family, and other doctors to provide an extra layer of support that complements your ongoing care. It can be used during other aggressive treatments such as palliative care, surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.



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