Since Sen. John McCain’s cancer diagnosis hit the national headlines, people around the world are becoming more curious about the disease. According to a statement released by McCain’s office, the malignant tumor was discovered during a surgery to remove a blood clot. Surgeons at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona followed up by performing another surgery to remove the tumor, which according to the statement was successful.
Glioblastoma, What Is It?
Glioblastoma is a malignant form of cancer that develops in the connective tissue, arising from the glia cells. Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a grade 4, making it the most aggressive of the gliomas and the most commonly diagnosed in humans, especially those over the age of 60. However, it is still classified as a rare disease that affects 3 in 100,000 people.
Glioblastoma is not known for spreading to other organs, but instead remains in the brain. It grows at a very rapid pace and will invade the surrounding tissue. The cancerous cells will multiply and their growth will begin to affect other parts of the brain by pressing on the adjacent structures.
Glioblastoma causes a range of symptoms, including nausea, headaches, vision or/and speech problems, seizures and fatigue. To make an accurate diagnosis, physicians rely on the results of a CT scan, PET scan or MRI, physical exam and a tissue sample analysis or biopsy.
Glioblastoma is an incurable form of cancer, with a survival of less than a year. The prognosis can vary among patients, depending on the patient’s functioning, tumor location and whether the tumor can be fully removed through surgery. The prognosis is still typically poor.
Once Glioblastoma is confirmed, an oncologist will formulate an individualized treatment plan, which typically includes chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Since Glioblastoma has a tendency to invade the surrounding tissue, residual malignant cells can remain behind even after a “complete resection.” In this case, the surgery is followed up with radiation and chemotherapy in an effort to eradicate the remaining cancer cells.
New therapy that involves utilizing the body’s immune cells to reprogram them to attack the cancer. While these new treatments are still in the initial stages, they have shown some promise in treating various form of cancer.