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About Glioblastoma (GBM)

In this section, you or a loved one can find out more about medical treatments and practical information about glioblastoma. Read on to find answers to some of your questions as well as links to other information. Being informed is an important first step toward becoming an active decision-maker in your care plan.

What Is Glioblastoma?

Glioblastomas (GBM) are tumors that arise from the star-shaped cells that make up the supportive tissue of the brain. Glioblastomas usually contain a mix of cell types and are highly malignant. These tumors are highly cancerous because the cells reproduce quickly and they are supported by a vast network of blood vessels. Glioblastoma rarely spreads elsewhere in the body.

There are two types of glioblastomas:

Primary or de novo: This form of glioblastoma is very aggressive. This is the most common form of glioblastoma, and tumors present themselves very quickly.

Secondary: These tumors begin as lower-grade tumors, which eventually become higher grade. They are still very aggressive.

What Causes Glioblastoma?

The exact cause of glioblastoma is unknown.

What Are the Effects of Glioblastoma?

Glioblastomas grow rapidly and the most common symptoms are usually caused by increased pressure in the brain. Other symptoms and signs may be caused by the part of the brain affected by the tumor:

  • Drowsiness 
  • Headache 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Memory, thinking and behavioral changes 
  • Vision changes—blurred vision, double-vision or vision loss 
  • Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
  • Difficulties with speech
Which Body Parts Are Affected?

Glioblastomas are generally found in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain, but can also be found in the spinal cord.

Are There Other Complications?

People with brain tumors often suffer from:

  • Blood clots
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Hearing loss
  • Hormone changes
  • Seizures
  • Sensory and motor control issues

These symptoms may be associated with the type, size and location of the tumor, as well as the treatments used to manage it.

Fatigue

After surgery or other treatment, patients may experience a sense of deep fatigue. Coping strategies for fatigue include: pacing your activities, adjusting your diet, exercising moderately and medication. 

Lifestyle Options

For most people, regardless of having cancer or not, exercise, healthy eating and good sleep habits are recommended. A healthy lifestyle can lead to enhanced quality of life for most people. Talk to your doctor before making any lifestyle changes.

Healthier diet:

  • Remove white food—White food tends to be processed food, low in nutrients and high in sugar. But don't take all bread from your diet – grains can be an important source of fiber, selenium and vitamins B and E.
  • Colorful fruits and vegetables—The more vibrant the color of a fruit or vegetable, the higher the nutritional content is. Try the "3-colors-a-day" trick as an easy way of ensuring fruits and vegetables make it to your menu.
  • Drink water—Our bodies need at least eight glasses of fluid a day. During chemotherapy, additional fluids are needed to replace fluid lost through treatment side effects. The weight gain and puffiness caused by steroids might tempt you to skimp on your water. Don't – avoiding water now will only worsen the side effects.
  • Eat healthy fat—Healthy fat, like omega-3, may increase the activity of the immune system's natural killer cells. Flaxseed is the richest plant source of these healthy omega-3 fats. Oily fish, such as lake trout, herring and sardines, as well as canola and walnut oil are all excellent sources of omega-3 fats.

Please be sure to consult with your physician.

Complementary Therapy Options

Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage. Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor's medical treatment. Be sure to talk to your cancer care team; they can help you learn what is known about the method, which can help you make an informed decision.

Please be sure to consult with your physician.

Medical Treatments

The first step in treating glioblastoma is a procedure to make a diagnosis, relieve pressure on the brain, and safely remove as much tumor as possible through surgery. Glioblastomas have finger-like tentacles that are very difficult to completely remove. Because the tumors contain so many different types of cells, glioblastoma can be difficult to treat. Some cells may respond well to specific therapy, while others may see not affect. This is why the treatment plan for glioblastoma may combine several approaches.

Radiation and chemotherapy may be used to slow the growth of tumors that cannot be removed with surgery. Chemotherapy may be used to delay the need for radiation in young children. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and other treatments all have the potential to generate new symptoms. Some glioblastoma treatments are available through research studies called clinical trials.

Other Intervention:

  • Physical therapy:  A physical therapist can help you gradually restore functions and give you helpful exercises to do at home. Exercises include those to improve your strength, restoring limb movement, ways to compensate for lost functions and those to improve balance.
  • Speech therapy:  Speech therapists not only help with speaking, but with swallowing problems associated with certain brain tumors. A speech therapist will test you and build a custom plan to fit your therapy needs.
  • Occupational therapy:  An occupational therapist will help you regain the ability to accomplish everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing, and eating. 

Please be sure to consult with your physician.

Find Clinical Trials Near Me

What Is a Clinical Trial? 

Find out all about clinical trials.

What to Expect in a Clinical Trial 

All the information and answers you need before, during and after a clinical trial