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.

Glioblastoma is the more common name for a type of brain tumour called a grade 4 astrocytoma. (You may sometimes hear it called glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM for short, though these terms are less used nowadays.)

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 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.

How are glioblastomas treated?

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. The chemotherapy drug is also usually taken for a further 6 months after the radiotherapy has finished.

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