Glioblastoma: Here are signs of the aggressive form of brain cancer

Having severe headaches with nausea and vomiting? These might be signs of glioblastoma, which is an aggressive form of brain cancer.
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Glioblastoma: Know everything about this brain cancer. Image courtesy: Freepik
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 31 Dec 2023, 12:00 pm IST
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When we talk about cancer, the ones related to breasts, lungs, and skin often top the list. But glioblastoma, also known as glioblastoma multiforme, should not be ignored. It is a rare tumour with cases of less than 10 per 100,000 people across the globe, as per a 2017 research published by the National Library of Medicine. However, it is a disease that needs attention. So, you should be aware of the signs of glioblastoma, which the World Health Organization defines as a grade IV cancer.

Health Shots reached out to Neurologist Dr Pradyumna J. Oak to know about more the aggressive form of brain cancer – glioblastoma.

Woman having headache
Severe headache is a sign of glioblastoma. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What is glioblastoma?

It is an aggressive form of brain cancer that originates from glial cells, which provide critical support and protection to your neurons, says Dr Pradyumna. As for its causes, they remain a complex mix of environmental and genetic factors, which are not yet fully understood. He notes that in India, brain tumour cases make around 2 percent of all cancers. And glioblastoma, being an aggressive type of brain tumor, accounts for a significant part of this, although the precise statistics is not available right now.

Symptoms of glioblastoma

The signs of glioblastoma can be quite diverse, given that they depend on the size, location and growth rate of the tumor. Signs of glioblastoma include:

1. Severe headaches

Cancer or not, we can get headaches. They can be due to stress, poor posture, changes in sleep pattern or even lack of sleep or skipped meals. There is even ice cream headache! But when it comes to glioblastoma, the headaches tend to be intense and relentless. They are most severe in the morning hours or whenever there are changes in position such as standing up or lying down, says the expert.

2. Seizures

Seizures can also be noticed in people battling glioblastoma. Even those who have no prior history of seizures might experience sudden and uncontrolled range of symptoms, from momentary staring spells to convulsive bodily movements.

3. Physical weakness or numbness

If your family member has glioblastoma, they might feel physically weak or numb, particularly on one side of the body. Some people might have trouble with balance or coordination.

4. Cognitive changes

There can also be noticeable cognitive changes like memory issues, confusion or difficulty in thinking. There might be feelings of nausea or episodes of vomiting as well.

Woman having headache
Glioblastoma is a very serious condition. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Survival rate of glioblastoma

Glioblastoma is a serious condition with an extremely challenging prognosis. Dr Pradyumna says that on average, the median survival period is around 15-16 months with standard treatment. Roughly 30 percent of people with glioblastoma survive up to two years. However, it’s important to understand that these averages are subjective and each prognosis of each person can vary.

There is currently no definitive cure for glioblastoma. However, there are treatments that can alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. One option is to get surgery done to remove as much of the tumour as possible. There is also radiation therapy to target cancer cells, and chemotherapy, often using a drug called Temozolomide. In some cases, doctors use targeted therapies that zero in on specific abnormalities in the cancer cells.

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The road to diagnosing and treating glioblastoma can be a challenging task, but you should know that knowledge is the first step to empowerment when it comes to dealing with health issues.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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