Improving Brain Tumour Care surveys share your experiences and help create change

What is a glioblastoma?

Glioblastomas are sometimes called glioblastoma multiforme, GBM, GBM4 or a grade 4 astrocytoma.

A glioblastoma is the most common high grade primary brain tumour in adults. It rarely occurs in children. It’s normal to feel shocked if you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed. We will guide you through glioblastoma multiforme symptoms and treatments and our Support and Information team can help you answer any questions you have, or provide a listening ear if you need one.

What is a glioblastoma?

Glioblastomas are grade 4 brain tumours. They are:

  • fast growing
  • diffuse – meaning they have threadlike tendrils that extend into other parts of the brain
  • likely to spread within the brain
  • may come back, even if intensively treated
  • sometimes called malignant or cancerous.

GBMs are a type of glioma, which is a brain tumour that grows from a glial cell.

Back to the top

What treatment do people diagnosed with a glioblastoma usually have first?

If you’ve just been diagnosed and are about to have treatment, you may want to see what other people’s first treatment was. Use the First Treatment insight in BRIAN, which you can personalise to make it relevant to you.

What are the symptoms of a glioblastoma?

Different parts of the brain control different functions, so the symptoms you experience will depend partly on where the tumour is within your brain. It will also depend on the treatment you receive.

Find out more

Back to the top

Get your free Information Pack

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a brain tumour and you don’t know which way to turn, start with our free Information Pack.

How are glioblastomas treated?

Generally, if you’re well enough, neurosurgery will be performed to remove as much of the tumour as possible. 

Once your wound has healed, you may also receive chemotherapy, radiotherapy or both.

Before surgery, you may want to ask your healthcare team about:

  • 5-ALA. A surgical aid that can help surgeons remove more of a tumour
  • biobanking. A method of storing a sample of your tumour for future research.
  • clinical trials. Experiments into new ways of treating brain tumours.

Find out more

An illustration of scientist who is a woman of colour looking down a microscope against a purple background.

Trial finds DCVax-L can prolong the lives of those living with a Glioblastoma

A major phase III clinical trial has found that novel treatment DCVax®-L can prolong the lives of people diagnosed with a new or recurrent glioblastoma

Back to the top

What causes glioblastomas?

As with most brain tumours, it’s not known why glioblastoma multiforme tumours start growing, although we do understand some of the risk factors involved.

It’s important to know that there is nothing you could have done, or avoided doing, that would have caused you or somebody you know to develop a brain tumour.

Back to the top

Glioblastoma research

Read about the research we are funding to help our understanding of how and why this tumour type forms and develop new, effective treatments.

How long can I live with a glioblastoma?

Nobody can be absolutely certain about what will happen to you following a diagnosis of a brain tumour.

Your healthcare team may give you a prognosis, which is an estimate based on your tumour type and current situation. However, they won’t be able to predict other factors, such as how well you might respond to treatment.

Glioblastoma prognosis

Back to the top

Want to know more?

Glioblastoma factsheet – PDF

Our glioblastoma factsheet gives you an overview of glioblastomas in adults and answers some of the questions you may have about this type of tumour.

Glioblastoma factsheet – Clear print PDF

Our clear print fact sheet gives you an overview of glioblastomas in adults and answers some of the questions you may have about this type of tumour.

If you have further questions, need to clarify any of the information on this page, or want to find out more about research and clinical trials, please contact our team:
Support and Information Services
0808 800 0004 Free from landlines and mobiles
Phone lines open Mon-Fri, 09:00-17:00
A member of our Support & Information Team provides support over the phone to somebody affected by a brain tumour diagnosis

Get support

If you need someone to talk to or advice on where to get help, our Support and Information team is available by phone, email or live-chat.

Share your experiences and help create change

By taking part in our Improving Brain Tumour Care surveys and sharing your experiences, you can help us improve treatment and care for everyone affected by a brain tumour.