What is glioblastoma?

Glioblastoma is the most common high grade (cancerous) primary brain tumour in adults.

Glioblastoma 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 different types of glioblastoma:

  • Primary - this means the tumour originated in the brain instead of spreading from elsewhere
  • Secondary - this means the tumour developed from a lower grade astrocytoma

What causes a glioblastoma?

There is nothing you could have done, or avoided doing, that would have prevented you from developing a brain tumour.

As with most brain tumours, the cause of glioblastoma is not known. The Brain Tumour Charity is funding research into possible causes, focussed around our genes.

Treatment for glioblastoma

The best treatment currently is surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible, followed by chemoradiation. This is a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Glioblastoma, however, are 'diffuse', meaning they have threadlike tendrils that extend into other parts of the brain making it difficult to remove it all. The chemoradiation is needed to target those cells which cannot be removed by surgery.

Generally it involves radiotherapy given over a period of weeks alongside rounds of the chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is also usually taken for a further 6 months after the radiotherapy has finished.

Effectiveness of treatment

Unfortunately glioblastomas are aggressive tumours and often appear resistant to treatment. This is probably due to the fact that the cells within the tumour are not all of the same type. This is known as 'heterogeneity'. This means that certain treatments will kill off certain types of glioblastoma cell but leave the others.

Glioblastoma life expectancy

Information about prognosis can be difficult to receive - some people do not want to know, whilst others do. There is no wrong or right answer as to whether or when to receive such information.

It is important to remember that statistics and averages cannot tell you what will happen to you specifically. Read a general overview of prognosis for glioblastoma.

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