A glioblastoma, also known as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), is a type of astrocytoma, a tumor originating in the glial cells (glioma). is always a grade IV astrocytoma because they exhibit features of grade IV tumors; rapid growth, abnormal and extensive vasculature, and incorporation of dead tissue within the tumor (necrosis). A glioblastoma may originate as a grade IV tumor, or it may evolve from a lower-grade astrocytoma.
The causes of a glioblastoma are not known. These tumors appear to be sporadic, meaning that they do not seem to relate to any genetic predisposition. It has been observed that they are more common in men than women, and more common in older than younger people.
The most frequently reported symptoms associated with glioblastomas are those that relate to increasing intracranial pressure: headache, nausea, vomiting, and seizure.
Glioblastomas often cause progressive memory loss, personality changes, or other neurological deficits. In some cases, glioblastomas may be asymptomatic until they grow quite large.
At the Piedmont Brain Tumor Center, diagnosis is made after a thorough physical examination, neurological study, and patient history has been conducted. In most instances, the presence and location of the tumor will be determined by computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. In some cases, it may be important to obtain a biopsy of the tumor tissue to help diagnose it. A biopsy involves surgically removing a tiny amount of the tumor for laboratory analysis.
Although it is difficult to remove all a glioblastoma surgically, surgery may be recommended to remove as much of the tumor as possible and relieve intracranial pressure. Surgery may be further limited depending on the location of the glioblastoma within the brain.
Next, radiation treatment is often recommended, and administered in a course of treatment over several weeks. Chemotherapy is often administered, concurrent with or after radiation. Many new chemotherapeutic agents are being studied for treating glioblastomas. Other therapies, including cytostatic or biologic agents, as well as gene therapies are under investigation.
Patients who have had seizures are placed on anticonvulsant medications.
Glioblastoma, also known as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), is a grade IV astrocytoma because of its rapid growth, invasive nature, extensive vasculature, and necrosis. They can occur in people of all ages, but are more common in men between the ages of 45 and 70. Symptoms of glioblastoma include headaches, nausea, vomiting, memory loss, and personality changes. Glioblastomas are very difficult to treat and are usually managed with combination therapy (surgery, radiation, chemotherapy). Surgery may be performed even if the entire tumor cannot be removed. New drug studies are underway that offer better treatment of glioblastoma.