After a patient has been diagnosed with a brain tumor such as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), their doctor will recommend a course of treatment that takes into account the size of the tumor, where it is located, and how quickly it is growing. Glioblastoma is one of the more common types of brain tumors among adults. While GBM can spread to other parts of the brain, it rarely metastasizes outside of the central nervous system. Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics, serving patients throughout northern New Jersey, discusses the next steps patients should take after a glioblastoma diagnosis.
What Is Glioblastoma?
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a type of brain tumor that develops in astrocytes, a type of glial cell. It is a fast-growing, aggressive type of cancerous tumor. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), glioblastoma is the most common type of malignant brain tumor. GBM is a type of glioma, a tumor that forms in the glial cells of the brain and spinal cord. Glial cells surround nerves and help them function properly.
Who Is at Risk?
The exact cause of glioblastoma is unknown. However, there are a few known risk factors for this type of tumor:
- Genetic factors: Patients with hereditary conditions such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome, neurofibromatosis, and Turcot syndrome are more likely to develop tumors.
- Past medical treatment: If a patient has previously had ionizing radiation therapy to the head, new cancerous cells may develop as a result.
- Chemical exposure: Individuals who are regularly exposed to certain chemicals such as pesticides may be more likely to develop brain tumors.
While glioblastoma can affect patients of all ages and genders, men are at slightly higher risk than women, and it occurs most often in adults over the age of 55.
Symptoms of Meningioma
Symptoms of glioblastoma can vary based on the size and location of a patient’s tumor. They can include:
- Severe headaches
- Nausea or vomiting
- Memory loss
- Muscle weakness or loss of coordination
- Changes in vision
- Difficulty with speech or language processing
- Behavioral changes
Many of these symptoms overlap with other types of tumors, so an accurate diagnosis is crucial.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
To confirm a diagnosis of glioblastoma, a physical and neurological exam to check the patient’s balance, coordination, vision, and hearing will be done. But an magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), or computed tomography (CT) can help determine the location, size of a patient’s tumor, and whether it has spread to other locations throughout the body. A neurosurgeon may biopsy the tumor using a needle to collect a small sample of cells that can then be tested for mutations.
Because glioblastoma tumors grow quickly and can move into surrounding brain tissue, they can be difficult to eradicate. Often, surgery is recommended to remove as much of the tumor as possible. However, complete resection of a glioblastoma may not be possible because the tumor has spread into brain tissue and removal would cause lasting neurological damage. Other treatments may be used in addition to surgery, such as:
- Medication: Some patients benefit from steroids to reduce swelling around the tumor or anti-seizure medication.
- Radiation: After the surgical resection of a tumor, radiation therapy can help shrink or kill off remaining malignant cells. Radiation is sometimes used before surgery, as well as to reduce the size of a tumor.
- Chemotherapy: Chemo drugs are given intravenously or as an oral medication to target cancerous cells.
- Tumor treating fields (TTF) therapy: This treatment uses electrical fields to disrupt the growth of tumor cells.
After treatment for a brain tumor, some patients need rehabilitation, such as physical therapy to regain strength and coordination, or speech therapy if the tumor affected the part of their brain that processes speech and language.
Consult With the Neurosurgery Team at CNSO
While a glioblastoma diagnosis can be overwhelming, patients can be confident in the standard of care at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics (CNSO) in northern New Jersey. CNSO’s medical team has extensive experience in treating all types of brain and spinal tumors and takes the time to get to know each patient and determine the best course of treatment. CNSO serves patients in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, and Passaic counties, as well as the surrounding areas. To learn more or schedule an appointment, contact CNSO today.