Glioblastoma is a type of brain cancer that is particularly aggressive and difficult to treat. It is classified as a stage 4 cancer, which means that it is in its most advanced and severe form.
What is glioblastoma?
Glioblastoma is a type of brain cancer that arises from the cells that make up the brain’s supportive tissue. These cells are called glial cells, and they provide structural support and nourishment to the neurons in the brain. Glioblastoma is an aggressive cancer that can rapidly invade and destroy healthy brain tissue, leading to serious neurological deficits and death.
Symptoms of glioblastoma
The symptoms of glioblastoma can vary depending on the location and size of the tumour. Common symptoms include headaches, seizures, changes in cognitive function, weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, and changes in vision or speech. These symptoms can be caused by other conditions as well, so it is important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
Diagnosis of glioblastoma
Diagnosing glioblastoma typically involves a combination of imaging studies and a biopsy. Imaging studies such as CT scans and MRI scans can help identify the location and size of the tumour, as well as any surrounding swelling or oedema. A biopsy involves removing a small sample of tissue from the tumour for analysis under a microscope. This can help confirm the diagnosis of glioblastoma and determine the specific type of cells that are involved.
Treatment of glioblastoma
The treatment of glioblastoma typically involves a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. The goal of treatment is to remove as much of the tumour as possible, while minimising damage to healthy brain tissue.
- Surgery. In many cases, surgery is the first step in treating glioblastoma. The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the tumour as possible, while preserving healthy brain tissue and minimising the risk of neurological deficits. However, because glioblastoma tends to infiltrate surrounding brain tissue, it is often impossible to remove the entire tumour.
- Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy involves using high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. It is typically used after surgery to target any remaining cancer cells that may be present in the brain. Radiation therapy can cause side effects such as fatigue, headaches, and hair loss.
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy involves using drugs to kill cancer cells. It is often used in combination with radiation therapy to help improve the effectiveness of treatment. Chemotherapy can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and hair loss.
- Clinical trials. Patients with glioblastoma may also be eligible to participate in clinical trials, which can offer access to experimental treatments and therapies that may not be available through standard treatment options.
Prognosis of glioblastoma
The prognosis for glioblastoma is generally poor. Because it is an aggressive cancer that tends to infiltrate surrounding brain tissue, it can be difficult to remove with surgery completely. Even with aggressive treatment, the median survival time for patients with glioblastoma is typically less than two years.
It is important to remember that every patient is unique, and there are many factors that can influence prognosis, such as the age and overall health of the patient, the size and location of the tumour, and the specific molecular characteristics of the cancer cells.
Coping with glioblastoma
Being diagnosed with glioblastoma can be a challenging and emotional experience for both the patient and their loved ones. Coping with the diagnosis and treatment of glioblastoma can involve a range of strategies, including seeking support from healthcare professionals, family and friends, and mental health professionals.
Patients with glioblastoma need to prioritise self-care and adopt a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, healthy eating, and stress-reducing activities such as meditation or yoga. Engaging in meaningful activities and hobbies can also help patients maintain a sense of purpose and well-being during treatment.
Support groups and online communities can provide a valuable source of information, advice, and emotional support for patients with glioblastoma and their loved ones.
Stage 4 glioblastoma is a challenging and aggressive cancer that requires a multidisciplinary approach to treatment. While the prognosis for patients with glioblastoma is generally poor, there are many factors that can influence outcomes, and every patient is unique. With a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, along with support from healthcare professionals, loved ones, and mental health professionals, patients with glioblastoma can cope with their diagnosis and treatment and maintain a good quality of life for as long as possible.
Tim Williamson, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.