Glioblastoma Simplified: Understanding its Symptoms and Treatment Options

by Dr Amit Jotwani

Glioblastoma, also referred to as glioblastoma multiforme, is an aggressive type of brain tumour that can occur in the brain or the spinal cord. It is known to be difficult to cure and progresses very quickly. 

It is more common in older adults, but can occur at any age.

Padmashree awardee Dr (Prof) V S Mehta is the Chairman of Neurosciences at Paras Hospitals, Gurugram. In the video below, he explains how glioblastoma is treated and what the aim of the treatment should be. 

What are the most common symptoms of glioblastoma?

Glioblastoma is characterised by a quick progression of symptoms like headache, nausea, vomiting, weakness in limbs and seizures.

Depending on the location of the tumour in the brain, other symptoms like vision difficulties, speech difficulties and memory loss might occur. 

What causes glioblastoma? 

It’s not possible to pinpoint the exact cause of glioblastoma. But we do know of certain factors that increase the risk of developing it, like exposure to radiation.

How is glioblastoma diagnosed?

The first step in finding out whether you suffer from glioblastoma is to consult a neurosurgeon. They will understand your symptoms by asking several questions about the nature and duration of the symptoms. This will help them rule out other possible causes of these symptoms. 

An MRI scan will help in identifying brain tumours. (You can read more about how to prepare for an MRI scan here.)

Depending on the location of the tumour, a stereotactic needle may be done for tumours in very sensitive areas within the brain that might be damaged by a more extensive surgery to confirm the diagnosis and will help the neurosurgeon and the oncologists plan the course of treatment. 

How is glioblastoma treated?

The first step in treating glioblastoma is surgery, to remove as much of the tumor as possible. After surgery, the next treatment is radiation therapy along with oral (in pill form) chemotherapy drug called Temozolomide. After completion of this treatment, Temozolomide is continued for 6 cycles during the maintenance phase.

In cases where the patient cannot receive surgery due to their health condition or other reasons, radiation therapy may be used to shrink the size of the tumour. 

Will the patient be cured?

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for glioblastoma. The goal of the treatment is to prolong the time period between the progression or recurrence of the tumour. 

Dr Aditi Aggarwal is a Sr Consultant – Radiation Oncologist at Paras Hospitals, Gurugram. In this video, she explains how radiation therapy is useful for glioblastoma and what side-effects can be expected from it. 

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