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What is Glioblastoma Multiforme by Kara Friedman

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There are over 120 different types of brain tumors.  The most common brain tumors origionate in the glglile tissue of the brain.  Glioblastoma Multiforme (also known as GBM), is the most common and most aggressive brain tumor that appears in humans.  It is a fast-growing brain or spinal cord tumor, but it mostly appears in the brain.  A glioblastoma multiforme belongs to the astrocytomas group, which is the most common type of primary brain tumors.  A glioblastoma multiforme is the highest-grade form of astrocytoma because it grows very aggressively and spreads the fastest.  GBM tumors invade surrounding tissues in the brain and spread out irregularly in all directions making preventing spreading almost impossible. As it grows, the tumor can press against nerves and other structures damaging them and interfering with the brain’s normal function.  It can disrupt ones thought, memory, emotion, movement, vision, hearing and touch.  Glioblastoma multiforme brain tumors can occur at any age, although they are more likely to occur after the age of 50.

Some symptoms of GBM in adults are seizures, paralysis, changes in behavior, memory, or thinking ability, and feeling dizzy.  Children may have different symptoms than adults which include headaches in the morning, fatigue, seizures, behavioral changes or abnormal thought processes, and weakness of an area of the body.  Symptoms may vary due to the size and location of the glioblastoma multiforme.

A neurological evaluation should be done if a patient has signs of these symptoms.  A neurologist can also preform a complete examination which could include an MRI scan, a CAT scan, or a chest X-ray to see if the tumor has spread from another part of the body.  Depending on the symptoms, specialized tests may be done to check the sharpness of their vision and hearing.  If the results of other tests are not conclusive, an examination of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord may be done although this is not usually necessary.

Because of the way glioblasomas grow and spread so quickly, treatments should begin as soon as possible. Sadly, treatment for glioblastoma is not a cure.  Surgery is the first thing doctors will try as far as treatments go.  If at all possible surgery will be attempted to remove the bulk of the tumor, however it is very difficult to remove a glioblastoma completely because of the way it spreads throughout the brain.  Radiation therapy is a treatment that doctors may use during or after surgery.  Radiation therapy can be delivered during surgery  directly to the tumor, or after surgery delivered in a beam of energy from outside the brain.  The last treatment for patients with GBM is chemotherapy although this has not been routinely used because it does not appear to lengthen patients survival.

Of the approximately 12,000 people that are diagnosed with GBM annually in the United States, half will die within a year, and the rest within 3 years.  Glioblastoma tumors are the most malignant tumors.  Although younger patients tend to have better outcomes, only a small percentage of adults survive 5 years after they are diagnosed with GBM.  Scientists don’t know what causes these brain tumors and the only treatments known are invasive surgeries and radiation treatment  with the maximum tolerated dose, which all lead to a low quality of life for patients.  Because of this, researchers are working to find better treatments and therapies to stop or slow Glioblastoma Multiforme.





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