Glioblastoma multiforme is considered the most common type of malignant brain tumor, and it is also the most aggressive, making the prognosis quite poor in most cases. Glioblastoma is always Grade 4, which is the most severe stage of brain cancer, and the majority of patients die within one year of diagnosis. The most common symptoms of glioblastoma Grade 4 include nausea, severe headaches and sudden behavioral changes. Treatment usually includes surgery to remove the tumor, followed by chemotherapy and radiation, though it is often difficult to treat glioblastoma without damaging the brain. For this reason, treatment is typically aimed at prolonging life expectancy and making the patient comfortable rather than getting rid of the cancer permanently.
Some of the most common symptoms of this condition include serious headaches, nausea and vomiting. Patients may also experience weakness on one side of their body, as well as seizures. One common symptom deals with behavior, because many patients notice memory loss and personality changes that gradually get worse as the tumor grows. This is because it often interferes with both the frontal lobe and the temporal lobe, depending on where the tumor is. Therefore, patients with a tumor particularly close to these lobes have more personality changes than those whose tumor barely touches these areas.
Patients who experience the most common signs of glioblastoma Grade 4 may see a doctor when the symptoms seem to get worse rather than going away. Doctors often take the symptoms into account and then attempt to get a look at the brain using a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) before diagnosing the problem. Brain imaging scans often look similar to other conditions, such as an abscess, so many doctors also opt to take a tissue sample, or do a biopsy. Physicians may also take into account the chances of the patient having a brain tumor before they take tissue from the brain to test. For example, Caucasian and Asian males over the age of 50 are the likeliest to develop glioblastoma, though anyone can develop this type of brain tumor.
Doctors often try to treat glioblastoma Grade 4 by surgically removing as much of the tumor as possible; this is usually followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Brain tumors are often difficult to remove, because the brain can be damaged easily and does not tend to repair itself as well as some other organs in the body. Therefore, the typical cancer treatments are not usually enough to cure the problem. They can, however, prolong the patient's life for a few more months or even years if the patient is otherwise healthy. In most cases, doctors recommend treatments that cure the symptoms, such as corticosteroids to stop the headaches and anticonvulsants to prevent seizures.