Glioblastomas: A Primer on This Mind-Boggling Brain Cancer

Glioblastomas are a particularly aggressive type of brain tumor. In adults, they are the most common malignant primary brain tumors, accounting for more than half of all such cases. Glioblastomas typically arise from the glial cells in the brain (the cells that support and protect the neurons), but can also develop from other types of brain cells. They are usually found in the cerebral hemispheres, but can occur anywhere in the brain or spinal cord.

Glioblastomas are highly unpredictable and, unfortunately, tend to be aggressive and difficult to treat. Glioblastoma tumors can grow rapidly and aggressively, often growing into adjacent areas of the brain. They can also spread into the cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord) and form secondary tumors in other parts of the brain or spinal cord. The median survival times of those diagnosed with a glioblastoma are usually between 12 and 17 months.

Risk Factors

The cause of glioblastomas is not very well understood, although some risk factors have been identified, including:

  • Age – Glioblastomas most often affect people between the ages of 45 and 70.
  • Sex – Glioblastomas are more common in males than in females.
  • Exposure to radiation – Glioblastomas are more common in people who have had radiation therapy to the brain, most likely as a result of cancer treatment.
  • Family history – People with certain genetic conditions (e.g., Turcot syndrome and Neurofibromatosis type 1) have an increased risk of glioblastomas.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Glioblastomas are usually diagnosed by a combination of medical imaging (e.g., X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs) and biopsy (removal of a sample of the tumor for analysis).

Treatment for glioblastomas usually involves a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Surgery is the first step, and it aims to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Radiation therapy is then used to kill any remaining tumor cells. Chemotherapy is usually used in combination with radiation therapy and has been shown to improve outcomes in some patients.

Coping with Glioblastomas

Living with a glioblastoma can be a challenging experience, and it can be difficult to come to terms with a diagnosis. However, there are a number of resources available to support patients and their families, including support groups and counseling.

It is also important to remember that glioblastoma tumors can be highly unpredictable, so it is important to stay informed about the latest developments in diagnosis and treatment. In some cases, a glioblastoma can even go into remission, so it is important to remain hopeful and to focus on whatever treatment options are available.