Symptoms Of Glioblastoma: Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment

Glioblastoma is primary malignant tumor of brain. Primary means the tumor originates in brain itself and not starting anywhere else and spreading to brain. Glioblastoma usually occurs in adults. It is one of the most aggressive growing brain tumors that has tendency to spread to surrounding brain tissue. Glioblastoma arise from astrocyte cells a type of glial cells that surround the neurons.

Astrocytes tend to multiply rapidly and they have rich supply of blood.

Glioblastoma is usually located in cerebrum, the major part of brain. However, sometimes it can be found in other parts of brain or spinal cord. Researchers do not know the cause of glioblastoma. They believe there is a link between viral infection and glioblastoma. Symptoms of this fast growing brain cancer are; headache, vomiting, confusion, memory loss, seizures etc.

Glioblastoma cannot be cured but its symptoms can be relieved. Treatment consists of radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. Glioblastoma has poor prognosis even with proper treatment. Without treatment patient may live for 2 to 3 months and with treatment life expectancy can be one year.

What Causes Glioblastoma?

The cause of glioblastoma is not known. Glioblastoma originates from the glial cells in the brain. Glial cells surround the neurons. Their function is to provide oxygen and nutrients to the neurons and remove the dead cells. Neurons are nerve cells in brain and spinal cord. They are the cells which transmit messages. The main types of glial cells are astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and ependymal cells. Tumor can arise from any of these cells. Glioblastoma develop from astrocytes.

Glioblastoma commonly occurs in adults. Males are at greater risk than females. This brain cancer usually develops in cerebrum of brain. Glioblastoma has its own blood supply hence it grows rapidly and spreads easily to nearby brain tissue. Glioblastoma constitute at least 15 percent of all primary brain tumors.

Although the exact cause is not known, researchers suspect link between viral infection and glioblastoma, especially simian virus and cytomegalovirus infection. Exposure to radiation and certain chemicals is also known to increase the risk of glioblastoma. Latin Americans and Asians have increased tendency to develop glioblastoma.

Signs And Symptoms Of Glioblastoma

Glioblastoma usually occurs in cerebrum, the major part of brain. However, it also sometimes develops in the spinal cord because of presence of astrocytes. The tumor cells of glioblastoma multiply rapidly because of their independent blood supply.

Symptoms in the beginning may be subtle but as the tumor grows in size it causes pressure on the cerebrum and adjoining brain tissue. Increased pressure in brain produces symptoms. They are as follows:

  • Severe headache
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of memory
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Deafness
  • Increased drowsiness
  • Change in behavior
  • Weakness in one side of body.
  • Difficult speech or slurred speech.
  • Vision problems such as double vision or blurred vision.

Diagnosis And Treatment Options For Glioblastoma

If the doctor suspects glioblastoma or any type of tumor in brain, he will examine the posterior segment of the eye with the help of funduscope. The back of eye may have significant changes due to increased pressure in the brain. If he still suspects the tumor, he will recommend CT scan or MRI of brain. Further definite diagnosis can be made with biopsy. Biopsy is done if the tumor is present in area of brain that can be operated.

Glioblastoma is brain cancer that cannot be cured completely. Hence the main aim is to slow down the growth and control symptom severity. Treatment also depends on the overall health of the patient. The gold standard treatment of glioblastoma is surgery. During surgery it may not be possible to remove the entire tumor. But the surgeon will try to remove as much as he can.

Patient may need radiation or chemotherapy after the surgery. In case if the tumor is deep seated and inoperable, radiation and chemotherapy are helpful to treat the condition. Glioblastoma is a rapidly growing tumor with bad prognosis even after treatment. Patients without treatment hardly survive more than 3 to 4 months. After treatment patient may survive for one year. Yet there may be some exceptions of surviving more than a year. The 5 year survival rate has been only 2 to 5 %.