Glioblastomais a type of cancer that grows on the brain or spinal cord. It can form on the cells that create nerve cells, and while it tends to affect older adults, it can occur in patients of any age. It can sometimes be hard to diagnose and difficult to treat. In most cases, the only types of treatment options are those that slow the progress of cancer and help relieve symptoms.
Glioblastoma Risk Factors
There are some things that can make a person more likely to suffer from glioblastoma. The factors may not necessarily cause a tumor, but increase a person’s risk of getting one. These risk factors include:
- Radiation exposure
- Family history of glioma
The cause of glioblastoma is unknown. Doctors know that they occur when cells grow out of control. As with most brain tumors, there is no known reason for the cells to do this. Medical science is working to determine what causes brain tumors and other types of cancers.
The symptoms of glioblastoma are often mild at first, but these can become more severe as the tumor grows larger. Many people assume their symptoms are not serious and do not seek treatment until they become severe. Some common symptoms of the disease include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Memory loss
- Personality changes
- Difficulty with balance
- Urinary incontinence
- Vision problems
- Speech difficulties
Diagnosis can often be hard because the symptoms of glioblastoma can mimic those of many other diseases and conditions. It can also be hard to find the cancer. Doctors may use a variety of different diagnostic tests to help detect this type of cancer. Sometimes, one test is enough to find it, and other times more are required. The most common tests used include:
- Neurological exam
- Imaging tests
Because glioblastoma grows in such delicate areas, treatment can be very difficult. Some treatments are either too risky or are not effective. Some can damage the surrounding tissues or organs. Doctors often focus their treatments on slowing down the progression of the cancer and relieving symptoms. Some common treatments include:
- Radiation therapy
- Tumor treating fields therapy
- Targeted drug therapy
- Palliative care
- Clinical trials
Some types of glioblastoma can be treated successfully. Others are in difficult places and do not respond well to treatment. When surgery is not an option, doctors focus on delaying the growth of the tumor. Since these tumors grow at different speeds, some patients have a better prognosis than others. Those who respond well to treatment can often live normal lives. Those who cannot be treated or do not respond to treatment have a poorer survival rate.
Glioblastoma can cause some complications. If the tumor becomes large, it can put pressure on the nerves and cause head and back pain. Depending on where it is growing, it may also cause vision problems and even hearing loss. If left untreated or if not treated properly, glioblastoma can lead to death.