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News of Senator John McCain being diagnosed with a primary glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor, caused a collective outpouring of compassion and concern for the 80-year-old senator. It’s normal for the diagnosis of a brain tumor to inspire an overwhelming range of emotions. An estimated 70,000 people will be diagnosed with a primary brain tumor—a tumor that begins in the brain—and countless more who will be diagnosed with a metastatic brain tumor—a tumor that begins as cancer in another part of the body and spreads to the brain—each year. Acquiring the correct information both from your doctor and your own research is the key to finding a way through those initial feelings and deciding on a course of treatment.
Julian Bailes, MD, Neurosurgeon at NorthShore, answers questions about glioblastomas to help inform us on this common but serious tumor.
What is glioblastoma?Glioblastoma, also called glioblastoma multiforme or GBM, is the most common malignant brain tumor. It affects both sexes with occurrence usually in middle age or in older adults.
What are the symptoms?These tumors can affect any part of the brain, and their presenting symptoms reflect the functions of the part of the brain involved. The usual symptoms of GBM are headaches, personality changes, speech difficulty, visual field loss, numbness, weakness, gait disturbance and others.
How is glioblastoma treated?The treatment is standardized in the beginning-surgery to remove as much as deemed safely possible, microscopic tissue analysis to confirm the diagnosis, then radiation and chemotherapy.
Are there any new treatments on the horizon?Patients may be eligible for clinical trials with new and promising drugs or other chemotherapy in consultation with neuro-oncologists and neurosurgeons.
You can find more information on glioblastomas and treatment options through the NorthShore Neurological Institute and Kellogg Cancer Center.