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What is a glioblastoma?

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 with a glioblastoma. Our Support and Information team can help you answer any questions you may have or provide a listening ear if you need one.

What is a glioblastoma?

Glioblastomas are grade 4 brain tumours and are sometimes called glioblastoma multiforme, GBM, GBM4 or a grade 4 astrocytoma. They’re:

  • 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.

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

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

If you’ve just been diagnosed with a glioblastoma 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 treatment do people diagnosed with a glioblastoma usually have first?

BRIAN is our trusted online app where you can track your experience, compare it with others who’ve been there and get the knowledge you need to make informed decisions.

Download our BRIAN app on the App Store    Download our BRIAN app on Google Play

Click here to visit the BRIAN website

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

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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

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What causes glioblastomas?

As with most brain tumours, it’s not known why glioblastomas 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.

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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

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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.

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

You can also join our active online community - Join our online support groups.