Brain Cancer – 7 Questions on Glioblastoma Multiforme

What are glia cells?

Glia cells hold together the neurons in the brain. The glia communicate with the neurons to trigger the neurons to function. One way to think of glia is that they are a network of cells throughout the brain. The glia are also described as the glue that holds the neurons in place.

What happens to the glia when they become malignant?

When the cells of a glia multiply, a malignancy is forming. Initially there will not be any symptoms. Unfortunately the cancer of the glia is very aggressive, that is, develops quickly. By the time symptoms are noticed a tumor is growing.

What is gliblastoma multiforme?

GBM, as glioblastoma multiforme is called, is the deadliest, most aggressive form of brain malignancy. GBM can form anywhere in the brain, and is the highest grade of cancer, a grade 4. There is no cure. There are 500,000 cases a year in the U.S.

What are GBM symptoms?

The symptoms are directly related to where the tumor is located in the brain. Brain malignancy is difficult to diagnose because for every group of symptoms there are multiple possible diagnoses. For instance, when my husband began searching for words, we thought he was experiencing “senior moments.” Yet, he quickly progressed to no longer knowing the names for objects. Then he could no longer spell or read. These symptoms progressed over four weeks.

How is glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) diagnosed?

When brain involvement is expected, the MRI is performed. The MRI will show up the tumor, where it is located, its shape, and it its size. From a biopsy, tissue samples are sent to pathology where the tumor is diagnosed.

What is the treatment standard for glioblastoma (GBM)?

The first line of defense is surgical removal, called a resection. Not all GBMs are operable. If the malignancy is located at the brain stem or anywhere else where resection would cause more harm than improvement, then surgery is not an option. The next line of defense is radiation therapy, five days a week, for four to seven weeks, along with chemotherapy. When the radiation is completed, then there will be a maintenance protocol of continued chemotherapy for several months.

What is the prognosis for this type of cancer?

Poor, glioblastoma multiforme is incurable. Other GBM tumors will form, and other surgeries may be performed. Aggressive radiation and chemotherapy will be offered. Life expectancy is anywhere from few weeks to a couple of years.

The most aggressive and deadliest form of brain cancer is glioblastoma multiforme. This is the type of cancer that Ted Kennedy had. There is no cure for this cancer. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.