This fast-growing cancer starts in the brain or spinal cord. Treatments include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
Glioblastoma is a type of cancer that starts as a growth of cells in the brain or spinal cord. It grows quickly and can invade and destroy healthy tissue. Glioblastoma forms from cells called astrocytes that support nerve cells.
Glioblastoma can happen at any age. But it tends to occur more often in older adults and more often in men. Glioblastoma symptoms include headaches that keep getting worse, nausea and vomiting, blurred or double vision, and seizures.
There's no cure for glioblastoma, which is also known as glioblastoma multiforme. Treatments might slow cancer growth and reduce symptoms.
Tests and procedures used to diagnose glioblastoma include:
Removing a sample of tissue for testing. A biopsy is a procedure to remove a sample of tissue for testing. It can be done with a needle before surgery or during surgery to remove the glioblastoma. The sample is sent to a lab for testing. Tests can tell whether the cells are cancerous and if they're glioblastoma cells.
Special tests of the cancer cells can give your health care team more information about your glioblastoma and your prognosis. The team uses this information to create a treatment plan.
Glioblastoma treatment options include:
Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses powerful energy beams to kill cancer cells. The energy can come from sources such as X-rays and protons. During radiation therapy, you lie on a table while a machine moves around you. The machine directs radiation to certain points in your brain.
Radiation therapy is usually recommended after surgery. It might be combined with chemotherapy. For people who can't have surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be the main treatment.
Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses strong medicines to kill cancer cells. A chemotherapy medicine taken as a pill is often used after surgery and during and after radiation therapy. Other types of chemotherapy given through a vein might be the treatment for glioblastoma that returns.
Sometimes thin, circular wafers containing chemotherapy medicine might be put in the brain during surgery. The wafers dissolve slowly, releasing the medicine to kill cancer cells.
Tumor treating fields (TTF) therapy. TTF uses an electrical field to disrupt the cancer cells' ability to multiply. TTF involves putting sticky pads on the scalp. The pads are connected to a portable device that creates an electrical field.
TTF works with chemotherapy. It might be suggested after radiation therapy.
There are ongoing studies of many other treatments for glioblastoma.