As a cancer survivor myself, I thought I knew a lot about the big C. In fact, I felt well versed on several types of cancer until I heard of Glioblastoma Multiforme. What kind is that? Those are big scientific words compared to Colon Cancer, Bone Cancer, Breast Cancer, etcetera. Not only is Glioblastoma a big word, it’s a big deal. It is the most common form of brain cancer around, much more common in adults (ages 40-75) and, although considered to be very rare in children, it visits them too. Research on glioblastoma is far behind other cancers considering the percentage of brain tumors glioblastoma multiforme is responsible for. The most famous one affected recently would be Ted Kennedy.
A Little Background
So what is Glioblastoma? Well, first let’s say that all research points to one word : Aggressive. But before we go that far, it should be noted that all gliomas come from the Astrocytoma family . This cell form has three levels of severity that are rated by the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO grade I corresponds to pilocytic astrocytoma, WHO grade II corresponds to low-grade astrocytoma, WHO grade III corresponds to anaplastic astrocytoma, and WHO grade IV corresponds to glioblastoma multiforme. Although all astrocytoma are dangerous, the first three have shown the chances for long term survival to be greater due to the cells slower growth rate. Most low grade astrocytomas present themselves in younger people (by the age of 20), but are seen in adults too.
In the Clutches of Glioblastoma Multiforme
This form of cancer in children may typically start in the spinal cord and work its way up towards the brain or it may start in the brain stem at the base of the neck. In either case, the tumor’s path is towards the brain. Symptoms may be headaches, loss of feeling or the “giving out” of a leg for example. Back pain is common when the tumor has started in the spinal cord. Surgery is often the first treatment to remove all or portions of the tumor. However, because of the aggressive nature of glioblastoma multiforme, the tumor usually encases itself or grows tendrils so that total removal is impossible through the means of surgery. Radiation is then done to help shrink the tumor not only for purposes of cure, but to alleviate back pain and reduce the tumors effects on the central nervous system. Chemotherapy is given in conjunction with radiation and may be continued after all other treatments are finalized.
According to the epidemiology of MedScape Reference, the outlook for survival is grim for older adults who are typically excluded from clinical trials due to age combined with the lack of advancements and research of the disease. For younger patients, quality of life is greatly improved when all treatments are undertaken. Survival rates are nothing to write home about.
No cancer when detected can be ignored nor can the hope that a cure or a remission to give science a chance to catch up be ignored either. Without hope for the patient, quality and joy in life become lost. None of us can see the future, but we know that the simple encouragement that hope can give is extremely beneficial to our daily lives. Hope is not just for the cancer patient, but for the every day journey we all face. Without hope, there is no sense in making plans for tomorrow. One of the best blogs that I’ve ever read that tells of the trials and joys of being stricken with glioblastoma is called Ordinary Oddballs. I encourage you to read it from the beginning, to learn and see one family’s journey as they keep hope alive for all us, but mostly for their lovely daughter Callahan. Remember, hope is not denial, rather it is a thought process that we all should have a portion of in order to enjoy life more fully.
Hospitals near Philadelphia, PA that treat Glioblastoma Multiforme
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Sloan Kettering in New York