What is glioblastoma? What you need to know about the brain tumor

Glioblastoma is an aggressive cancer that arises in the brain and spinal cord and usually carries a grim prognosis.

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Glioma are tumors of the brain, and glioblastoma is a grade IV glioma — the most aggressive form of the disease.

The glioma is formed from abnormal astrocyte cells, which are those that support many functions in the brain and nervous system.

Glioblastoma tumors are invasive, though they rarely spread outside of the brain. The cancer is seen more often in those older than 60, but can occur at any age, though it is extremely rare in children.

Men are 50% more likely to develop glioblastoma than are women.

What are the symptoms?

According to the Mayo Clinic, these are the symptoms of glioblastoma:

· Headache

· Nausea or vomiting

· Confusion or a decline in brain function

· Memory loss

· Personality changes or irritability

· Difficulty with balance

· Urinary incontinence

· Vision problems, such as blurred vision, double vision or loss of peripheral vision

· Speech difficulties

· Seizures, especially in someone without a history of seizures

Are there risk factors?

The Mayo Clinic lists three factors that could increase your risk of developing the tumor:

Age: Glioblastoma is generally diagnosed in people between the ages of 60 and 80, though it can occur at any age.

Radiation exposure: Those who have been exposed to ionizing radiation have an increased risk of brain cancer.

Ionizing radiation is the type of radiation used to treat cancer patients. It is also the type of radiation that is caused by the explosion of an atomic bomb.

Family history: Family history of brain cancer can increase the chances of contracting the disease.

How bad is the cancer? What is the prognosis?

The prognosis for glioblastoma patients is often poor, with the average survival time after symptoms begin of around 14 months with treatment, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. However, around 10% of patients with the disease will live five years or longer.

Can’t they remove the tumor?

While tissue in which the cancer forms can be removed, glioblastomas often return. In addition, glioblastomas are invasive tumors that spread and entangle themselves in various parts of the brain.

According to the Glioblastoma Foundation, treatment consists of surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. Chemotherapy and radiation may slow progression of the cancer and reduce and relieve symptoms for a time.

How common is glioblastoma?

According to the National Cancer Institute, about 15,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with glioblastoma each year, and glioblastomas account for half of all the tumors that arise in the brain.

According to the American Cancer Society, most brain cancers have no known cause and result from genetic abnormalities.

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