Glioblastoma is a type of astrocytoma, a brain tumor named for the star-shaped cells called astrocytes from which it forms. It is the most common form of brain cancer in adults, accounting for 35-40% of malignant brain tumors.
Approximately 14,000 cases of glioblastoma are diagnosed each year in the United States. They are primary tumors, meaning they originate in the brain rather than spreading to the brain from cancer elsewhere in the body. This type of brain cancer is typically aggressive but rarely spreads outside of the brain.
The disease tends to occur in active, otherwise healthy people, and more frequently in males.
Symptoms include headache, memory problems, weakness on one side of the body, difficulty thinking and speaking, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting and seizures. The onset of symptoms can be sudden and acute; however, in some patients, there may be gradual changes, such as problems with language, concentration, or coordination and strength on one side of the body.
We don’t know what causes glioblastoma and are aware of very few risk factors so far. What we do know is that past radiation to the central nervous system or head increases the lifetime risk of getting glioblastoma. On the other hand, seasonal allergies, such as hay fever, may have a protective effect. The current speculation is that the protection is related to a heightened immune system.
Most glioblastomas are not inherited. They can rarely occur in people with certain genetic syndromes, but it’s more likely to see some families having a strong predilection to cancer in general.