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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Glioblastoma multiforme

Glioblastoma, also known as glioblastoma multiforme, GBM or grade IV astrocytoma, is a fast-growing, aggressive type of central nervous system tumor that forms on the supportive tissue of the brain. Glioblastoma is the most common grade IV brain cancer. Glioblastomas may appear in any lobe of the brain, but it develops more commonly in the frontal and temporal lobes. Glioblastoma usually affects adults.

Glioblastoma cancer symptoms

Symptoms of glioblastoma vary depending on the location of the tumor, but they may include:

  • Persistent headaches
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Changes in mood or personality
  • Changes in ability to think and learn
  • Memory loss
  • New onset of seizures
  • Muscle weakness
  • Speech difficulty

NOTE: These symptoms may be attributed to a number of conditions other than cancer. It is important to consult with a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis.

Advanced treatments for glioblastoma

Common glioblastoma treatments include:

Surgery: Surgical resection, which requires a craniotomy, is typically the first stage of treatment for patients with glioblastomas. Surgery may also allow for the removal of tumor tissue to relieve pressure in the brain caused by the tumor. We offer the Six Pillar Approach, a minimally invasive surgery for patients with hard-to-reach tumors.

Radiation therapy: Radiation may be recommended after surgery for some glioblastomas. It may also be necessary to treat glioblastomas when surgery is deemed unsafe or is not recommended for another reason. Radiation therapy may be used alone, with chemotherapy or with targeted therapies. We offer several methods for delivering external beam radiation therapy to treat glioblastomas:

  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): IMRT is a state-of-the-art radiation delivery system that is used to treat hard to reach tumors. It can also spare healthy tissue from radiation therapy. In IMRT, the radiation beams are broken up into smaller beams and the intensity of each of these smaller beams can be changed. This means that the more intense beams, or the beams giving more radiation, can be directed only at the tumor. It is most useful to treat a tumor that is near critical parts of the brain, such as the brain stem and areas that control sight.
  • Stereotactic radiation therapy: this treatment focuses radiation from various angles to the outline of the tumor. This technique is designed to reduce damage to healthy tissue. Because the procedure does not require an incision, it typically leads to less discomfort, shorter recovery times and fewer complications than surgery.

Chemotherapy: Several chemotherapy drugs taken orally or intravenously are available to manage the symptoms of glioblastoma. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are typically the recommended course of treatment for nearly all glioblastomas. Following surgery, carmustine wafers may also be implanted. After a surgeon operates to remove the cancerous tissue in the brain, up to eight dime-sized wafers are implanted in the space where the tumor was. Over the next few weeks, the wafers slowly dissolve while filling surrounding cells with medication. The goal is to kill tumor cells left behind after surgery. Chemotherapy along with Optune has been approved for adjuvant therapy once radiation is complete.

Targeted therapy: are medicines that target the parts of cancer cells that make them unlike normal cells. These new drugs are used more often to treat brain tumors than standard chemotherapy. Targeted therapy can help when other treatments are not working as well. They can also have less-severe side effects than standard chemotherapy medicine.    


Last Revised: 01/27/2017

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