Key Points about Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)
- Glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM, is an aggressive type of brain cancer that can affect adults or children.
- Doctors use biopsy, imaging tests and physical exam to diagnose GBM.
- Treatment for GBM may include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
Glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM, is an aggressive brain cancer that affects the glial cells (cells that support the nervous system). GBM usually occurs in adults, but it can also develop in children.
Glioblastoma multiforme causes
This condition is caused by mutations (changes) to the DNA of the glial cells.
Glioblastoma multiforme risk factors
The following factors may increase your risk for developing GBM:
- Being age 50 or older
- Being male
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Having chromosomal abnormalities on chromosome 10 or 17
- Having specific genetic syndromes, including:
- Neurofibromatosis (type 1 or type 2)
- Tuberous sclerosis
- Von Hippel-Lindau disease
- Having undergone radiation therapy
Glioblastoma multiforme symptoms
Typically, symptoms of glioblastoma multiforme come on gradually and then worsen over time. Signs and symptoms of this type of brain cancer may include:
- Changes in personality or behavior
- Changes in vision
- Decreased appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty speaking
- Mood swings
- Trouble with balance or walking
- Trouble with memory
- Sensation changes
Glioblastoma multiforme diagnosis
Your oncologist may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:
- Physical exam – your doctor will perform a complete physical exam, including asking questions about your health history, symptoms and related risk factors. As part of this, your doctor will also perform a neurological exam, including checking your hearing, vision, balance, coordination, strength and reflexes.
- Biopsy – in this test, your doctor removes a biopsy (small tissue sample) from the suspicious area. This sample is sent to the laboratory, where a specialist closely checks the biopsy for abnormalities.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan – this type of imaging test provides a 3D image of the inside of the body that your doctor can use to determine if there is any cancer present. Your doctor may use a CT scan to determine if the cancer has spread beyond the initial site, as well as to stage the cancer.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – this type of imaging test uses high-powered magnets to create detailed images of the inside of your body. Your doctor can closely examine these images to look for any areas that could indicate cancer. Your doctor may use MRI to determine if the cancer has spread beyond the initial site, as well as to stage the cancer.
- Ultrasound – this type of imaging test uses sound waves to create images of the inside of your body. Your doctor can closely examine ultrasound images to look for any areas that could indicate cancer.
Glioblastoma multiforme treatments
Depending on your personal health history, the extent of the glioblastoma multiforme and other factors, your oncologist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
- Surgery – in most cases, the first course of treatment for GBM will be surgery. Your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to remove as many of the cancerous cells as possible. Your surgeon will work to preserve as much surrounding healthy tissue as possible.
- Chemotherapy – you will likely need to undergo chemotherapy to destroy any cancerous cells that couldn’t be removed surgically. During this treatment, medication is used to destroy cancerous cells. Chemotherapy can be taken via an oral (by mouth) pill or intravenously (through a vein).
- Radiation therapy – this treatment uses high-powered energy beams to destroy cancerous cells. You may need to undergo radiation therapy to destroy any cancerous cells that couldn’t be removed surgically.
When should I seek care?
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.