What is a Glioblastoma?

Glioblastomas are common and highly malignant tumors that come from astrocytes (cells that are in the shape of stars which the supportive tissue of the brain is made up of). These cells are produced rather rapidly, and a massive network of blood vessels supports them. Towards the center of the tumor, dead cells may be found. It is easy for them to permeate and reside within brain cells that are normal since the tumor arises from normal brain cells. It is very rare to see the spread of this tumor to every part of the body.

This tumor can be found in any part of the brain or spinal cord, but its location is mostly in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain. In accordance with the National Brain Tumor Association, there is a median survival rate of 15 months for patients suffering from this disease. With age, the frequency of this tumor increases and affection of men is higher to that of women. The precise cause of glioblastoma is unknown.

Types of Glioblastomas

Primary: this is the most rampant and aggressive form of this tumor. They usually form and ensure the quick knowledge of their presence.

Secondary: These tumors are still quite aggressive but have longer and slower growth. Before they get to high-grade tumors, they usually start from low grade. They are often diagnosed in people from the age of 40 and below.  

Signs and Symptoms of Glioblastoma

These signs and symptoms that people experience depend on the location of the tumor. Pressure on the brain usually occurs due to the rapid growth of the tumor. Symptoms include:

  • A persistent headache (more pain in the morning and gets better during the day)
  • Presence of seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty in thinking
  • Personality or mood change
  • Double vision or blurriness
  • Difficulty in speaking

Risk Factors for Glioblastoma

  • Gender: This tumor is more likely to be diagnosed in men than women
  • Family History: Hereditary genetic factor plays a role in this
  • Age
  • Home and Work exposure: Though not scientifically proven, high and excessive exposure to pesticide, rubber, solvents, oil products, and vinyl chloride.
  • Race and ethnicity: White people are more likely to be affected by this.
  • Exposure to allergens, viruses, and infection
  • Electromagnetic fields
  • Head injuries and seizures

Diagnosis of Glioblastoma

Diagnosis of this tumor is by neurological examination of the patient for sign and symptoms of this disease. During the examination, the physician checks for vision, coordination, balance, reflexes, hearing, sensation, and short-term memory. The physician will also check signs of optic nerve pressure by accessing around the eye to check for external swelling. Though these examinations are necessary, they are not enough to make a conclusion on the diagnosis. The examination may rule out brain tumor as the issue or prove that more testing is required in other to make a conclusive diagnosis.

At the end of the examination by the physician, if signs and symptoms point to a brain tumor, then the physician will refer the individual to radiology (medical imaging) so as to get a picture of your brain in details in other to make a correct diagnosis. These imagings or scans give very useful and vital information of the existence of the tumor. First of all, the location of the tumor, if it is causing any pressure in any area, and how body functions can be affected by specific parts of the brain that is controlled. The radiologist who is in charge of this scan will interpret it and make a report for your physician on what the scan says.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Commonly called MRI uses radio waves, magnetic fields and computer technology to provide detailed visuals of the cerebral soft tissue. It does not use radiation that is why it is thought to be the optimum form of imaging. Contrast dye is used for the scan to make details visible easily. Before or during the scan, the contrast is injected into the veins. Specialized forms of magnetic resonance imaging are available like MR perfusion, functional MR, MR angiography, and MR spectroscopy.

Computerized Tomography: It is commonly called the CT scan, has the ability to produce images of the brain and spinal cord, and can reveal bone structures situated around the tumor, soft tissue, and presence of swelling, hemorrhage, and accumulation of calcium within the tumor. This scan uses radiation but in a low dose and merge a couple of x-ray images from different angles to give a three-dimensional view of the brain. CT scans are not often used for brain tumor assessments. It is generally utilized in patients who have pacemakers or other forms of metal instrument embedded in their body.  For patients with metal instruments, due to magnetic fields, MRI scan cannot be used.

Biopsy: Taking a biopsy of the tumor is essential for a concrete diagnosis of glioblastoma. During a biopsy, some brain tissue is taken to check if it has a cancerous growth. It will also determine what kinds of cells are present. A neurosurgeon surgically removes the piece of the tumor and then it is examined by a pathologist, and a diagnosis is made. A needle biopsy is done where the tumor resides, which is in a critical part of the brain or patient is in a grave condition, and surgery cannot happen. This way through the skull into the brain, a needle is inserted, and the sample is taken.

Treatment of Glioblastoma

The treatment of this tumor is tricky and difficult as it contains various kinds of cells. During therapy, some cells may be killed while others may remain untouched. This is why it is optimal that in other to treat glioblastoma different approaches should be combined. This tumor is difficult to take out surgically as it has finger-like tentacles, especially when it is growing around the area of the brain that is responsible for essential functions like coordination and language. In order to slow the growth of a tumor that could not be surgically removed, radiation and chemotherapy are mandatory. 

When to see a Neurologist

  When symptoms persist even with the use of medication, it is advisable to book an appointment with the nearest neurologist. This will ensure the early diagnosis of the disease. When a tumor is diagnosed at an early stage, treatment will commence immediately to slow the growth and prevent worsening of the condition.




Glioblastoma (GBM) | American Brain Tumor Association. (2018). Abta.org. Retrieved 27 April 2018, from http://www.abta.org/brain-tumor-information/types-of-tumors/glioblastoma.html

Glioblastoma Treatment: How Do Doctors Treat This Brain Tumor? | Everyday Health. (2018). Everydayhealth.com. Retrieved 27 April 2018, from https://www.everydayhealth.com/glioblastoma/treatment/

What Is Glioblastoma?. (2018). WebMD. Retrieved 27 April 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/cancer/brain-cancer/what-is-glioblastoma#1