April 18, 2024

Consumer Health: What is glioblastoma?

Glioblastoma (histology slide). Credit: Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

More than 14,490 people in the US will be diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2023, according to the National Brain Association, and 10,000 people in the US will die from the disease. The five-year survival rate is 6.9%, and the median length of survival is eight months.

Glioblastoma, also known as glioblastoma multiforme, is a type of glioma, which are tumors that occur in the brain and spinal cord. Glioblastoma is an aggressive cancer that forms from cells called astrocytes that support nerve cells. Glioblastoma can occur at any age, but it most often occurs in older adults and more often in men than women.


Glioma symptoms depend on the location of the glioma. Symptoms may also depend on the type of glioma, its size and how fast it is growing.

Common signs and symptoms of glioblastoma include:

  • A headache that keeps getting worse.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Blurred or double vision.
  • Seizures.


Treatment may slow the progression of the cancer, and reduce signs and symptoms. But glioblastoma can be difficult to treat, and often incurable. When developing a care plan, it is important to weigh the benefits of treatment against side effects that may reduce quality of life.

Treatment options for glioblastoma include:

  • Surgery to remove the glioblastoma: The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the tumor as possible. But because glioblastoma grows into normal brain tissue, it cannot be completely removed. For this reason, most people receive additional treatments after surgery to target the remaining cells.
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy is usually recommended after surgery and may be combined with chemotherapy. For people who cannot undergo surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be used as primary treatment.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells, and may be given during surgery, after surgery and if glioblastoma comes back.
  • Tumor treatment field therapy: This therapy uses an electric field to interfere with the ability of tumor cells to multiply. Adhesive pads are applied to the scalp and attached to a portable device that generates the electric field. Tumor treatment fields therapy is combined with chemotherapy, and may be recommended after radiation therapy.
  • Targeted drug therapy: Targeted drug therapy targets specific abnormalities in cancer cells that allow them to grow and thrive. The drugs attack these abnormalities, and the cancer cells die.
  • Clinical trials: Clinical trials are studies of new treatments. These studies allow you to try the latest treatment options, but the risk of side effects may not be known. Ask your health care professional if you are eligible to participate in a clinical trial.

Mayo Clinic News Network 2023.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Quote: Consumer Health: What is glioblastoma? (2023, 22 July) retrieved 22 July 2023 from

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