What to Expect With Glioblastoma Multiforme?

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Diagnosis

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common form of brain tumor. It is aggressive, is difficult to treat and has no known cause or genetic link. Symptoms of a glioma are varied, due to the complex nature of the human brain. Seizures, difficulty speaking or thinking, lack of coordination, nausea and headaches are common symptoms. However, a brain tumor can only be properly diagnosed by a doctor.

Outlook

GBM is an aggressive form of cancer, and the median life expectancy, starting at the time of diagnosis, is about 10 months. However, unlike many other forms of cancer, glioblastoma multiforme is unlikely to metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body. Contributing factors to the patient's outlook include the patient's age, physical health and how quickly he seeks treatment.

Treatment

The first method of treating GBM is often to surgically remove part of the tumor. Due to the physical trauma inherent in operating on the brain, as well as the risk of damaging healthy portions of the brain, tumor removal is a potentially dangerous process. Even if the process goes perfectly, it is difficult, if not impossible, to remove the entire tumor, as cutting too far could cause permanent brain damage.

Postsurgical treatment varies based on doctor recommendations, but it will usually consist of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Chemotherapy involves taking medicines designed to weaken the tumor, while radiation therapy involves using targeted blasts of radiation to damage the cancerous cells. Both of these treatments can cause nausea and fatigue.

Physical Effects

The physical effects of GBM depend on which side of the brain the tumor is on. A tumor on the left side of the brain will inhibit control of the right side of the body, and vice-versa. Glioblasoma can also cause disorientation and can impair hand-eye coordination.

In addition to the direct effects of the tumor, medications to treat the tumor can have negative physical effects. For example, anti-seizure medications can cause an additional lack of coordination, along with nausea, drowsiness and muscle weakness.

Mental Effects

Mental changes will vary greatly, depending on the location of the tumor. For example, an individual may have no short-term memory problems but have difficulty speaking. Or she may have no difficulty at all speaking, but have great difficulty following instructions.

Although symptoms vary, problems with physical coordination, hand-eye coordination and cognitive difficulties are common. Difficulties with memory are also common.

Emotional

Being diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme is extremely difficult emotionally, both for the sufferer and for loved ones. The tumor can cause depression and irritability, and the situation itself can lead to feelings of depression, anger and hopelessness for all parties involved. These feelings are normal, however, and can be managed.

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