Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), or class IV Astrocytoma, is the most common and most malignant for of brain tumor. The cancer originates in the glial cells that protect the nerve cells, and the aggressive disease spreads quickly to other parts of the brain.
GBMs are mainly composed of star-shaped glial cells known as astrocytes. Astrocytomas are classified into four grades based on the speed of reproduction and extent of infiltration of the nearby tissue. Grades I or II astrocytomas are nonmalignant and low-grade. Grades III and IV astrocytomas are malignant and are also known as high-grade astrocytomas. The Grade IV astrocytomas are also known as glioblastoma multiforme.
The condition accounts for 60 percent of all the brain tumors diagnosed in the United States. The man-to woman prevalence ratio is 3: 2. Although the exact cause of the disease is not known, most experts believe that genetics and exposure to chemicals such as vinyl chloride may increase your risk of getting glioblastoma multiforme. GBMs are common in adults over 50 years of age.
The condition generally develops suddenly, and most patients experience symptoms for less than 3 months. Patients usually experience headaches and neurological deficits such as motor weakness. Increased intracranial pressure may lead to nausea, vomiting, cognitive impairment and seizures. The tumors can occur at any age, although the average age of diagnosis is about 55 years.
After a complete physical examination and analysis of your family history, your doctor may also recommend CT and MRI scans. These imaging studies create pictures of the brain and help confirm the diagnosis of glioblastoma multiforme.
Chemotherapy is the most common technique used to treat the tumors associated with glioblastoma multiforme. The medications are introduced into the bloodstream and travel to the specific area to destroy the cancer cells. The medication may also be given as a pill or injected directly into the spinal cord. Your doctor may prescribe more than one type of drug to fight the glioblastoma multiforme tumor. Surgical resection and radiation therapy may also be prescribed to overcome the disease. Your age and severity of symptoms will determine the type of therapy.
The treatment of GBM brain tumors remains difficult and mortality rates are usually high. Some patients may require physical and occupational therapy for rehabilitation after successful surgical intervention. Hospital stay depends on the severity of the neurological symptoms. Your doctor may perform regular imaging scans to identify the extent of tumors after treatment.