Glioblastomas

Glioblastoma is a primary brain tumour and belongs to a group of brain tumours known as gliomas as it grows from a type of brain cell called a glial cell. There are several different types of glial cells, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and ependymal cells.

One of the many protocols for the treatment of glioblastoma is surgical intervention followed by chemotherapy. A post surgery MRI scan may indicate a radiosurgical boost or conventional radiation therapy. Also, a recurrence may be treated with Gamma Knife radiosurgery

Symptoms

The symptoms of glioma vary by tumour type as well as the tumour’s size, location and rate of growth.

Common signs and symptoms of gliomas include:

  • 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

What are the causes

Like most primary brain tumours, the exact cause of gliomas is not known. But there are some factors that may increase your risk of a brain tumour:

  • Age.  The risk of a brain tumour increases as you age. Gliomas are most common in adults between 60 and 80 years old. However, they can occur at any age. Certain types of gliomas, such as ependymomas and pilocytic astrocytomas, are more common in children and young adults.
  • Family history of glioma. It’s rare for glioma to run in families. But having a family history of glioma can double the risk of developing it. Some genes have been weakly associated with glioma, but more study is needed to confirm the link between these genetic variations and brain tumors.

How common are glioblastomas

Gliomas are the most commonly diagnosed of both benign and malignant primary brain tumors accounting for 45-50% of all primary brain tumours. The most common gliomas are astrocytomas, ependymomas, oligodendrogliomas and tumours with mixtures of two or more of these cell types.

Diagnosis

Tests and procedures used to diagnose glioblastoma include:

  • Neurological exam. During a neurological exam, your doctor will ask you about your signs and symptoms. He or she may check your vision, hearing, balance, coordination, strength and reflexes. Problems in one or more of these areas may provide clues about the part of your brain that could be affected by a brain tumour.
  • Imaging tests. Imaging tests can help your doctor determine the location and size of your brain tumour and MRI is often used to diagnose brain tumours. Other imaging tests may include CT and positron emission tomography (PET).
  • Removing a sample of tissue for testing (biopsy). A biopsy can be done with a needle before surgery or during surgery to remove your glioblastoma, depending on your particular situation and the location of your tumour. The sample of suspicious tissue is analysed in a laboratory to determine the types of cells and their level of aggressiveness.

Further information

Further information and support is available from: