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Glioblastoma Overview

Glioblastoma tumors, formerly called glioblastoma multiforme and sometimes referred to as gliomas, are malignant (cancerous) brain tumors that develop from astrocytes and oligodendrocytes—cells that support and maintain the nerve cells in the brain.

Although these tumors almost never spread to other parts of the body, they quickly invade other parts of the brain. They are the most aggressive of all primary brain tumors (tumors that originate in the brain).

Glioblastoma Symptoms

Because glioblastomas grow quickly, the most common symptoms are usually caused by increased pressure within the brain.

Symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness on one side of the body
  • Memory problems
  • Speech difficulties
  • Vision changes

These symptoms can be caused by variety of other medical problems, and do not necessarily mean that you have a brain tumor of any kind. Please contact a medical professional if you are experiencing these symptoms or are otherwise worried about your health.

Glioblastoma Treatments

Because glioblastomas quickly invade other parts of the brain, they cannot be completely removed with surgery. Glioblastoma treatment usually involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. However, individual tumor cells can survive radiation and chemotherapy, and repopulate the tumor.

Surgery for Glioblastoma

Surgery to remove a glioblastoma focuses on removing as much of the tumor as possible without damaging important parts of the brain.

Barrow offers several advanced options that aid surgeons in maximizing the amount of cancerous tissue removed while sparing as much healthy tissue as possible.

Radiation Therapy for Glioblastomas

Radiosurgery can be used to shrink and destroy glioblastomas without brain surgery. It can also be used in addition to brain surgery and chemotherapy to destroy glioblastoma cells that are left behind by the other two methods.

Barrow offers both Gamma Knife and Cyberknife radiosurgery for the treatment of glioblastomas and other brain tumors.

Chemotherapy for Glioblastomas

Glioblastomas are usually treated with a drug called temozolomide, but other medications may be given depending on your overall health and other circumstances.

Glioblastoma Clinical Trials

Barrow Neurological Institute, along with the Ivy Brain Tumor Center, is one of the largest sites for neurological clinical trials in the country with a large and active assortment of glioblastoma clinical trials. Learn more about glioblastoma clinical trials.

Individualized Care

There is no single recipe or “cookbook” approach that works best for everyone with a brain tumor. Every brain tumor is unique, as is each patient. Personalized medicine approaches, such as tumor profiling to look for specific gene mutations, can help determine the best therapies available for you.

Quality of Life Considerations

Brain tumor treatment should be about more than extending life; it should also be focused on optimizing quality of life. Access to a variety of neuro-rehabilitation specialists is important because they can help you maximize your independence and return to a fulfilling life with renewed self-esteem.

At Barrow, we offer a Brain Cancer Survivorship Program to foster relationships between families who have been affected by brain tumors and provide ongoing support.

Additional Information on Glioblastomas

How common are glioblastomas?

Glioblastomas represent about 15 percent of primary brain tumors, making them the most common primary brain tumor.

Who gets glioblastomas?

Glioblastomas can occur in children, but they usually develop in adults between the ages of 45 and 70 years old. They are more common in men than in women.

How are glioblastomas diagnosed?

Your doctor may use imaging tests, such as CT and MRI scans, and a tissue biopsy to differentiate between a glioblastoma and other kinds of brain tumors. Though a glioblastoma may be suspected on the basis of imaging studies alone, tissue biopsy is needed to accurately determine the tumor type.

Within the Ivy Brain Tumor Center, more detailed testing is sometimes used to identify a subtype of glioblastoma. This helps our neurosurgeons and neuro-oncologists be even more precise when selecting treatments and clinical trials.

Glioblastoma Multiforme Resources

AANS – Glioblastoma Multiforme
Glioblastoma (GBM) | American Brain Tumor Association

Group 49
Glioblastomas represent about 15 percent of primary brain tumors, making them the most common primary brain tumor.

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Medically Reviewed by Igor Barani, MD on April 13, 2021