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Glioblastoma: Thing You Must Know

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Glioblastoma: Thing You Must Know

Neuro Sciences | by Dr. Mahendra Kumar Manocha | Published on 02/02/2023



What is Glioblastoma?

Glioblastoma is a type of cancer which occurs in the brain or spinal cord. Cancer forms from the type of cells called astrocytes which support nerve cells. The condition can occur at any age but occur more frequently in the older population. Also, men are more likely to be diagnosed with glioblastoma than women. Untreated glioblastoma can cause worse headaches, nausea, vomiting and seizures.

Glioblastoma can be classified into different types - primary glioblastoma and secondary glioblastoma. While the former type of glioblastoma tends to be more aggressive and spreads rapidly, the latter develops gradually. The survival rate for secondary glioblastoma tends to be better than the primary. This blog contains information about glioblastoma and how you can manage the symptoms. Please note that this blog is only for informational purposes and to know the extent of your condition, you must consult the doctor.  

What are the symptoms of Glioblastoma?

Glioblastoma symptoms vary depending on the medical condition of the patient and the degree of the condition. The condition progresses rapidly and increases the pressure on the brain which leads to signs and symptoms. Depending on the location of the tumour, glioblastoma symptoms include -

  • Constant headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble thinking
  • Seizures
  • Changes in mood or personality
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Trouble speaking

How does Glioblastoma Occur?

There is no exact reason for glioblastoma but certain factors can contribute to the progression of the condition. A history of exposure to radiation, especially in the head for the treatment of brain tumours or cancers can also increase the risk of glioblastoma. Additionally, rare congenital disorders which cause genetic mutations like Turcot syndrome, neurofibromatosis type 1, and Li-Fraumeni syndrome are considered risk factors. Genetic mutations are mostly a result of chronic exposure to chemicals and other cancer-causing agents.

Age and gender are also considered risk factors. Patients aged 50 and above are more prone to get diagnosed with glioblastoma. So, in case you are experiencing early signs and symptoms, it is crucial you get in touch with the neurologist for early treatment.

Treatment Options For Glioblastoma:

Glioblastoma treatment varies depending on several factors. The aim of the treatment is to remove the tumour or prevent the tumour growth from progressing further. Several options for glioblastoma treatment can be done based on the patient’s medical condition and the degree of severity. Consider the following options if you are planning to undergo the treatment -

  • Surgical Intervention - Usually, the first treatment option involves surgically removing the tumour as much as possible. However, in some cases, when the tumour grows in the high-risk areas of the brain, surgery does not completely remove the tumour. The surgeon may recommend additional treatment options to target the remaining tumour.

 

  • Radiation therapy - Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams like x-rays to kill leftover tumour cells as much as possible. Radiation therapy is usually combined with surgery or chemotherapy to either eliminate the infected cells or prevent the progression of the disease. This option is also recommended for patients who do not prefer surgical intervention.

 

  • Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy uses drugs to eliminate cancer cells. Certain chemotherapies include Temozolomide which is one of the most common chemotherapy drugs for glioblastoma treatment. Other chemotherapy drugs include Carmustine (BCNU) and lomustine (CCNU). Additionally, the surgeon may also recommend targeted drug therapy for patients who are not responding very well to chemotherapy.

 

  • Electric Field Therapy - Also known as tumour treating field (TTF) therapy, the doctor uses an electrical field to disrupt the tumour cells without harming the healthy cells. TTF involve pads which are connected to portable devices that generate electrical impulses. Doctors combine TTF with chemotherapy and are often recommended with radiation therapy.

 

  • Wafer Therapy - The surgeon implants a biodegradable disc which releases chemotherapy to any cancerous tissue left after the surgical intervention. Another similar therapy, called nanoparticle therapy uses tiny particles to carry chemotherapy directly into the tumour to prevent cell growth.

 

  • Palliative Care - Palliative care refers to specialised medical care which focuses on dealing with pain and other symptoms of glioblastoma after the procedure. This type of treatment method can be used simultaneously with more aggressive methods like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Conclusion:

Glioblastoma is the most common type of malignant brain cancer which can grow fast and spread rapidly. Most patients with glioblastoma symptoms often remain unaware of the condition which can lead to serious complications. Treatment options for glioblastoma vary depending on the severity of the condition and the preference of the patient. Studies reveal that in the case of severe glioblastoma, 25% of patients live past one year, 8-12% up to two years and only 5% up to five years. However, these numbers do not predict the outcome for any patient. It is important to be aware of the early signs and get treated on time.

FAQs:

1. How is glioblastoma diagnosed?

Glioblastoma diagnosis involves the following tests -

  • Neurological exam to examine your vision, balance, hearing, coordination, strength and reflexes
  • Imaging tests such as x-ray, MRI, CT scan and positron emission tomography (PET)
  • Tissue biopsy

2. Can glioblastoma be cured?

Most patients with glioblastoma are cured if the condition is detected in the early stages. However, glioblastoma cure depends on the medical health of the patient and the extent of severity. The surgeons combine several treatment options to produce effective results which can help manage the symptoms in the long run.

3. What signs and symptoms of approaching death from glioblastoma?

While the process of death from glioblastoma is not sudden, prolonged growth of the tumour in the brain can lead to weakness, difficulty in swallowing, seizures, etc. Apart from that, there is a persistent change in blood pressure, heartbeat and breathing.

4. What is the difference between glioma and glioblastoma?

Glioma is one of the most common types of primary brain cancer that develop from cells surrounding the nerve cells in the brain or spinal cord. On the other hand, glioblastoma is the classification of glioma which is more aggressive.

5. Is glioblastoma cancer hereditary?

No, a general notion indicates that glioblastomas are not inherited. However, the risk of developing this type of brain cancer increases in people diagnosed with certain genetic cancer syndromes.