Glioblastoma is a rare but aggressive brain tumor most common in people over the age of 60. Doctors don't know what causes this type of tumor to form.
Glioblastoma is a hard diagnosis to accept, but we have ways to treat it. As a research institution, we're always making new discoveries about cancers like glioblastoma.
We offer the latest treatments, including advanced neurosurgery and Gamma Knife radiosurgery. UPMC is the nation's leading provider of Gamma Knife treatments.
UPMC's neurosurgery team is among the best. We'll be with you every step of the way to explain treatment options and offer support.
Glioblastoma, also known as glioblastoma multiforme, is a malignant (cancerous) brain tumor. It's the most common and most aggressive type of primary brain cancer.
A glioblastoma is a type of astrocytoma, which is a tumor that occurs from the brain tissue itself. It can grow fast because it has a rich blood vessel supply.
Glioblastomas are tough to treat. They often start as grade 4 tumors.
There are pros to removing this tumor through surgery. For some people, surgery can reduce symptoms from the tumor. It can also extend survival and life expectancy after radical removal.
After doctors diagnose glioblastoma, they'll suggest several types of treatment, including:
Most people with glioblastoma will have a craniotomy. During this surgery, doctors open the skull to take out the tumor. Surgeons use advanced imaging techniques to help guide this treatment.
Surgeons may also do intraoperative brain mapping. You're awake (but comfortable) for this surgery and can talk. This helps the surgeon map your language function.
Glioblastoma is the most common malignant primary brain tumor and accounts for almost 50% of cancerous brain tumors.
It's still a rare type of cancer, with three in every 100,000 people having it. (To compare, the risk for lung cancer is one in 15 for men and one in 17 for women.)
Doctors don't know what causes a glioblastoma tumor to form. Most people with glioblastoma have no clear risk factors or family history of cancer.
Doctors know of a few risk factors for getting glioblastoma:
Glioblastomas are also slightly more common men than women.
Glioblastoma symptoms vary, but they tend to come on quickly. This is because once the tumor forms, it grows fast and can press on parts of the brain.
Headaches may be the first symptoms. Other symptoms may include:
Make an appointment to see your doctor if you have symptoms of glioblastoma. The sooner treatment starts, the better the chance of extending survival.
To diagnose glioblastoma, your doctor will ask about your symptoms. They'll do an exam to check your vision, reflexes, and other neurological functions.
Your doctor will also order imaging studies, such as:
Your doctor may also do a biopsy before treatment or as part of your treatment. A biopsy removes a small piece of the tumor to study it.
Surgical removal or biopsy are standard initial treatments for newly diagnosed glioblastomas or tumors that recur.
Your treatment will depend on where the tumor is and its size and grade. Your doctor will also take into account your overall health and quality of life.
It's common to use radiation therapy and chemotherapy along with surgery to treat a glioblastoma.
The neurosurgical team will take a careful look at your health problem from every angle. Our goal is to find the path that least disrupts your brain, critical nerves, and ability to return to normal functioning.
Our neurosurgeons often use image-guided surgery, along with pre- or intraoperative brain mapping, to remove the glioblastoma safely.
Even with the initial types of treatments for glioblastomas, people with residual tumor or a tumor that recurs often need more options.
One option is Gamma Knife radiosurgery, a painless method to non-invasively boost the effectiveness of radiation delivered to the tumor.
UPMC is the nation's leading provider of Gamma Knife treatments. Our team has treated more than 12,000 people with tumors, vascular malformations, pain, and functional problems.
Our team may also do stereotactic radiosurgery using the Cyberknife or other linear accelerator-based systems.
Fractionated radiation is a common treatment for glioblastomas, either alone or with surgery and/or chemotherapy.
We deliver radiation therapy:
Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the growth of glioblastoma cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs may be:
The current chemotherapy standard of treatment for glioblastoma is temozolomide. People may take it daily during radiation therapy, and then take a maintenance dose for several months. If the tumor begins to grow again, doctors may also prescribe the drug lomustine.
This freelance writer faced the ultimate deadline, as her team of UPMC neurosurgeons raced to remove a tennis-ball sized tumor using the Neuroendoport® approach. Discharged after two days, she began the next stage of treatment and was soon back to her normal routine.
Cutting-edge brain imaging technology developed at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC is helping to save cancer patients' lives.