What is a Glioblastoma?

Glioblastoma is a type of cancerous (malignant), fast-growing tumor that originates in the brain and, less frequently, in the spinal cord. Glioblastomas are the most advanced form of a group of brain tumors called gliomas.

Glioblastomas are tumors that arise from astrocytes, which are the star-shaped cells that make up the supportive tissue of the brain. These tumors are usually highly malignant (cancerous) because the cells reproduce quickly and because glioblastomas are supported by a large network of blood vessels. In addition, because glioblastomas have finger-like tentacles, they are very difficult to completely remove surgically, especially when they grow near parts of the brain that control important functions.

What are the symptoms of a Glioblastoma and how is a Glioblastoma Diagnosed?  

Symptoms vary based on size and location of the tumor. They may include persistent and worsening headaches, nausea, vomiting, decline in balance, seizures, confusion and memory loss. Diagnosis includes a neurological exam with a physician for balance, reflexes, vision, hearing and other neurological function and brain imaging (including MRI, CT, and PET).

How is a Glioblastoma Treated?

Glioblastomas can be difficult to treat because the tumors contain many different types of cells, some of which may respond well to certain therapies, while others do not. Therefore, glioblastoma treatment may combine several different approaches, including:

  • Surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible
  • Chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to slow the growth of tumors
  • Stereotactic radiotherapy to administer a large dose of radiation directly at tumor cells
  • Medications may include steroids to treat and prevent swelling of brain tissue, and anti-seizure medication to treat and prevent seizures
  • New drugs and combination therapies currently in clinical trials, some of which target tumor growth or trigger an immune response.

Despite significant advances in treating glioblastomas, they frequently recur and require ongoing imaging and treatment. Learn more about Glioblastoma treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Contact the Brain Tumor Center

To schedule an appointment with a physician in the Brain Tumor Center, please contact our Patient Coordinator at: (617) 732-6600. We see new patients with a brain tumor diagnosis as soon as the next business day.

If you are a physician seeking to refer a patient to the Brain Tumor Center, please call (617) 732-6600 or you can access our physicians’ office phone numbers. To contact one of our physicians with a question, patient referral or second opinion, you may also email: BWHNeurosurgery@partners.org.

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