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What is the Prognosis of Glioblastoma?

Glioblastoma carries a challenging prognosis, with median survival times ranging from 12 to 18 months. Treatment advancements are improving outcomes, yet it remains a complex condition. Each case is unique, influenced by various factors like age and overall health. How do these factors interplay to shape individual prognoses? Discover the intricacies of glioblastoma's future outlook in our detailed visual guide.
H. Colledge
H. Colledge

Glioblastoma multiforme is the most common type of cancerous tumor originating in the brain. The prognosis of glioblastoma, which indicates how the disease will develop and an individual's expected survival time, can vary according to age, the tumor's size and position, the type of treatment received, and what is called the Karnofsky performance status, or KPS. A KPS score measures a person's ability to perform everyday tasks. Unfortunately, long-term survival of glioblastoma patients is rare and there is currently no cure. The average glioblastoma life expectancy is less than a year, with only around 2 percent of people living for longer than three years after diagnosis.

A glioblastoma multiforme tumor can also be described as a grade four astrocytoma. An astrocytoma is a brain tumor formed from cells known as astrocytes, with grade four being the type which grows most rapidly. Since there is no cure, glioblastoma treatment aims to control symptoms and prolong life, using a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Symptoms may include headaches, nausea, seizures and personality changes.

The prognosis for glioblastoma is more positive for patients who are less than 40 years of age.
The prognosis for glioblastoma is more positive for patients who are less than 40 years of age.

Operations to remove glioblastomas can be difficult, because the tumors tend to spread throughout the brain. Often it not possible to remove all of the cancer, in which case the prognosis of glioblastoma may be poor, with a cancer life expectancy of only a few months. Even after complete removal, glioblastomas typically recur. Studies regarding cancer survival data show that the younger patients are when their cancer is discovered, the longer they are likely to survive following tumor surgery.

When the cells of a glioblastoma are examined under a microscope, their appearance suggests how cancerous the tumor is.
When the cells of a glioblastoma are examined under a microscope, their appearance suggests how cancerous the tumor is.

When the cells of a glioblastoma are examined under a microscope, their appearance suggests how malignant, or cancerous, the tumor is. The prognosis is worse for tumors which are graded as being more malignant. Tumors in which new cells are produced more rapidly also have a poorer outlook.

Patients who are able to undergo aggressive treatment regimes, combining surgery with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, have a better life expectancy. As those who can withstand such difficult cancer treatments are frequently younger patients, this could partly explain why age has an effect on the prognosis of glioblastoma. Younger people are also more likely to achieve higher KPS scores, which are associated with a better outlook.

The size and location of the tumor affects the prognosis for glioblastoma.
The size and location of the tumor affects the prognosis for glioblastoma.

Generally, research findings suggest that the prognosis of glioblastoma is more positive for those who are less than 40 years old at the time when the tumor is found. It is difficult to predict the outlook for a specific individual. Although glioblastomas are presently incurable, research is being carried out into new methods of treatment, and some patients may take part in clinical trials.

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Discussion Comments


My mum (56 years old) has had a glioblastoma with midline shift December 2015. We were told that she would live 6 months.

Mum had chemo, radiation and surgery in 2015/16.

In 2016 and 2017 she had scans every month to monitor her treatment.

Yesterday (December 2017 and 58 years old) she had a second surgery to remove a reccurrence of the tumor in the same location.

Unfortunately she had a minor stroke during the surgery, which is one of the complications that can occur. Lucky she has very minor problems from the stroke.

My mum is a strong woman and had is one of the lucky ones to still be alive today.

We attribute her being alive today to her being strong and using medical marijuana.


Never give up hope! Focus on "The moment." Best of luck to you all. I often say I'm not smart but I am lucky!


My father has this terrible disease gbm.

We live in different countries. I've seen him when he was diagnosed in October 2015 (we thought it was a stroke) and just recently. He's had the radiation and is up to his second round of chemo. I'm amazed at how positive he is, and we shared some good times over a beer or two and some red wines.

I think, when faced with this at 68, quality of life is important too, as based on everything I've read ( and like everyone on here, we could probably write a book ), quantity looks like a less reliable outcome sadly. I hope for miracles, but am realistic. Dad hasn't looked too much into the nuts and bolts of what the prognosis is, and is putting his faith in his oncologist and medical team. So far, they've upped his chemo as his bloods and condition allow him to hit it harder than expected. I hope this translates to a better outcome.

I'd love to know if anyone has had any positive outcomes with a 'ketogenic' diet? From what I've read, if seems to have had some successful stories, and can be managed without having to change the orthodox treatment regime. I'm thankful for my dad's 68 years, but hope for many more. After reading these stories, it all still seems kind of surreal.

Dad's definitely changed. He's very tired, a bit forgetful and is a bit hard to motivate. It's like all the energies are reserved for the fight of his life. I can see these posts are mostly people 'unloading,' which is clearly what I've just done for the first time. Good luck to everyone and I hope the time with your loved ones is special.


@anon282395: Thank you for your post. I agree with every word.


I just wanted to say that my dad, age 71, was diagnosed last August with a glioblastoma stage 4 and has had two surgeries to remove the tumor. He is doing okay for now, but every two months I feel scared of what the MRI report will say.

It is a terrifying disease and I read all of your comments and I feel so terrible for all of your stories. Sometimes I feel like we are all alone but to think that some of you are going through the same hell we are makes me sick.

All clinical trials are rejecting him due to his age and that makes me angry because who are they to decide who gets a chance and who doesn't?

My heart and prayers go out to all of you. I am faithful that one day we will all understand why we had to carry this cross in our lifetime.


My daughter's friend, only 26 years old, had surgery last week where they removed most of the tumor, found later to be a glioblastoma. Too young, too vibrant. I hold her in my thoughts.


My husband was diagnosed with GBM in Oct 2013. He entered rehab and was given Heparin (which we have learned is not a wise choice for GBM) and suffered a stroke six hours after coming home. When he came home from a week of rehab he was weak on the left side but able to use a walker. Now his left side is nearly immobile and he is doing three days a week of physical therapy.

Not only does this disease rob one of mental and physical abilities, but it seems like the medical professionals aren't always aware of the best treatments given the poor prognosis for this disease. If you are dealing with this for yourself or a loved one, please read everything available and question it if things don't make sense. No one has as much at stake as you do, so don't hesitate to ask questions and even if the medical professionals suggest a course of treatment, you have the final say. I wish we had questioned the use of a blood thinner for a tumor known for bleeding propensity.


My sister has gbm4. However, a neurological team found the mass before it even became active. They watched it, monitored it, and within two weeks of it becoming active, did a biopsy, radiation and the five day treatment once a month. The tumor shows no activity, has lost density, and after two years they are about to end the treatment.

Everyone should have a base MRI! This has saved her life. Credit to the Dent Neurologic Group, Buffalo, NY for encouraging MRI to be a protocol in maintaining health.


My wife was diagnosed with glioblastoma stage 4 in July 2009. After brain surgery, she did the chemo treatments and radiation. Her quality of life was good for several months. The steroids kept the brain swelling down but did cause her to gain about 100 pounds over the course of the following year. Pretty much as predicted by the doctors, the tumor did grow back. Hospice came in the final month. She died in September 2010 at age 45. It's a very bad disease.


My husband was diagnosed with this awful disease in July 2011. He has since had two surgeries. The last one changed his personality and his ability to communicate with people. When you ask him a question, he cannot always give you an answer.

I am trying so hard to be patient with him, but I also work full time, have a very active three year old boy, have bills to try and pay and a house to run. His last MRI revealed that the tumor may be growing again.

He cannot have surgery, already tried avastin, teremodor, cyber knife and had gli wafers in the cervical cavity. I don't know what to do if this disease is getting worse. Any suggestions?


My boyfriend is 26 years old, and was diagnosed with GBM4 11 months ago. He has had no chemo or radiation. He has done an aggressive diet, supplements, DCA, IV tx, and detox and achieved complete remission five months later. Last week, he was diagnosed again with three new, small, dense nodules and a large, non-enhancing tumor. He is doing the same thing as round one. We are running out of money fast as our useless insurance doesn't cover his choice of treatment.

We need help with any organizations or nonprofits that help to cover costs of treatment that insurance does not cover, or provide any assistance at all in helping patients pursue the treatment they are comfortable with.

Only the best wishes to anyone out there caring for a loved one, or any fighters staying positive. --kristen


One of my sisters was diagnosed at the end of June 2006. She had surgery and did the drugs, chemo and radiation. She was very positive through it all. She fought it for two years and seven days. She died two months after her 60th birthday. She was under the care of Hospice that last few months. My brother-in-law thought (after she passed) that he should have let them come in sooner to help take care of her. We were all with her when she passed. Hospice was there giving her morphine and other drugs to help her. She was at home where she wanted to be.


@anon351647: It's hard to say how long he might last. The hospital is just being prepared for any eventuality. With him not swallowing, my very amateur guess is it will not be long. Maybe a week or two, but again, there's no definitive answer.

However, from what you've said, and in my experience, I'd say you're down to days, and he might be gone by the time you read this.

In any event, please know how sorry I am about your dad. You and your family are in my prayers.


Most of you have some great survival stories and I'm so so pleased for you all. My heart therefore goes out to everyone else who has lost a loved one to this horrible cancer.

Here is my question and i just want brutal honesty, please. My dad who is 71 was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioma in July 2013. They told us then he only had six months to live and until last week, he was doing wonderful.

The first week in October, he suffered two epileptic fits and has never spoken or responded to us. Today they put him nil by mouth because he won't swallow. I kind of know we don't have long, but the hospital people are planning his future care and I'm very confused.

Has anyone gone through this and is this the end or should we make plans for his future care?


My father in law was diagnosed with GBM stage 4 in November 2012, he had his tumour removed and then had what is classed as the gold standard treatment at the Royal Marsden in the UK, radiotherapy followed by chemo by tablet form. He managed three out of five cycles of the chemo before having a bad skin reaction so they decided to cut it short.

He has just had a recent scan that showed possible progression, although they said it may be pseudo progression? He has since experienced pressure in his head, has been sleeping a lot, is very vague and at times slurs his words. My mother in law has spoken to the hospital but they are in no rush to do anything! They just keep telling her to up the steroids to relieve the pressure? Does this mean the tumour is re-growing? I'm not sure what is worse -- the knowing or not knowing.


My sister was 38 years old when diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma. She is still alive 3 1/2 years later and doing remarkably well. She had radiation, is still on Temodar and in the early stages of her diagnosis received a chemotherapy called ppx in a clinical trial.


My sister has just recently been diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma and no treatment was given. What kind of time span are we talking about?


My husband is 43 years old, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor in January. He had the tumor removed and all went well, with no side effects or weakness. He has just finished six weeks of intense radiation, five 15-minute sessions five days a week with and seven days of chemo. He is now on a break for four weeks and this is week three. He then has five days of chemo, then a break, then a higher five days of chemo, then a scan. He has been positive all way through, and the McMillan nurses have been great. Hopefully, the treatment is working.


Eight years ago, my mother was diagnosed with GBM. She had to have emergency surgery, only she couldn't because of the aspirin she had been taking to ease her migraines we learned were from the grapefruit sized tumor growing in her brain.

I was only nine years old, and this was terrifying to me and my whole family. The surgery went well and so did the following radiation and chemo that took its toll on my mother's body and well being, but she always kept her hope.

Six years later, she was re-diagnosed after her against-the-odds, six-year "remission". Oh, how she hated that word. She told everyone she was healed. She had a gamma knife operation, combination chemotherapies and two brain surgeries, and never stopped smiling. She never gave up hope for that horrific year or battle when we kept going one step forward and eight back. She was the family rock.

When she had the seizures, though, they changed her. She was never the same. She was like a young child. She thought I was her mother, she was angry because she was confused and couldn't understand. She stopped understanding she had to get up and go to chemo. She never forgot to fight, or why to fight; she just forgot how. When we heard that we were out of options, it didn't seam real. When she passed away five days after Christmas (her favorite holiday) it didn't seam real. When my family and friends all sat at her memorial service yesterday, it didn't seam real.

But what was real, was her smile, her love, her fight. She was real. I don't think I'll ever know how to live life without my best friend, my mother. She was by my side the fifteen years of my life she was alive for. Always by my side and me always by hers. I hope to carry her legacy, and never give up hope. Never take this life for granted since I am living it for two now. -- Meagan T.


My husband was diagnosed 13 months ago with GBM stage 4. He had 70 percent of the tumor removed, did the radiation and Temodar. He never regained proper use of his left leg and arm. He has times of forgetfulness and times when he is plagued with hallucinations, but he is holding on. His care at home takes all my time, and much help from my three grown children. He's never "himself", but we have times of clarity and share our love.


My husband is 77 years old, but looks and acts like he is 60. He was diagnosed in July 2012. Surgery removed it all, supposedly. He also had radiation and Temodol. He started the monthly schedule of chemo for five days out of every month for one year. He only made it through two months of that treatment when he completely lost the ability to walk, talk and eat. He has been in the hospital for 16 days. Nothing has worked to bring him back. His prognosis was 12-14 months, and it's been seven. I want those last few mos. I am not ready to let him go. They are talking about Hospice. Someone please help me.


My mother was diagnosed with this 13 years ago. She is in the 10 percent who made it through! However, now she has brain cirrhosis from the radiation, which is taking her down faster then the cancer did. She lived longer than the three months they gave her, but this is no picnic either.


My father in-law was diagnosed a year and a half ago with this -- a glioblastoma. They did the tramadol, and have done two operations, but nothing has been successful. We are slowly seeing him decrease in health and it makes me so sad.

A man who used to run marathons is now unable know when he has to use the potty. I can say that will is not the surviving factor. He has so much will and he believes that he is going to make it, but it's not looking as though it is going to happen. I pray for all the people out there with this horrible disease and pray they find a cure before others have to suffer!


I am doing research on gbm4 because a relative of mine has recently been diagnosed. It was operable. Most if not all of the tumor was removed, and she is currently scheduled for chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

She is twenty-three years old and is otherwise healthy. Anyone with experience or knowledge of a similar situation with input to be shared would be appreciated.


My mom was perfectly fine last year when we celebrated her surprise 65 birthday party. About 1 1/2 weeks after she started having seizures and in September 2011, she was unresponsive. She had a brain hemorrhage and they had to go into take the pressure off her brain and done a biopsy while they was in there. It was a grade 4 glioblastoma so we moved her and my dad up to where their three kids lived. We had her scheduled for radiation and chemo but she kept having hemorrhages and we lost her in November 2011.

I am so glad that there are people out there that survive this absolutely horrible cancer and pray for a cure soon. I do believe that a person's attitude and willpower do help in any medical situation, so if it's you or somebody else that has this, just keep a positive attitude and God bless you all!


@anon195155: I am glad you are in remission and attribute your survival rate to willpower, but there is likely a scientific reason (genetics/chromosomes) as to why you beat the odds.

For people who are dying, I think if they have the idea that their 'willpower' wasn't strong enough to beat it, it adds discouragement or a sense of failure to an already horrible prognosis. Will has nothing to do with the statistical odds of this vicious cancer. There just aren't any easy answers but the more they can study the root causes and the critical success factors of survivors (i.e. the tendencies of certain chromosomes) the more likely it is that we can save more people from this devastating cancer.


My husband has gbm4 and has just started his five day dose per month for six months and is due for MRI in two weeks. He is 68 and is having trouble staying positive at this stage. He is very sick from the temodal 5 day treatment. I wish you all the best. --terie


I suffered glioblastoma in my brain stem 5 1/2 years ago they were not able to operate on it. I had radiation and Tamadol chemo. I have been in complete remission for two years now with slight movement problems on the left side. I was still suffering from epilepsy up to 12 months ago, so there is hope for patients. They gave me only four to six weeks to live. You just have to have the will power to fight it.

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    • The prognosis for glioblastoma is more positive for patients who are less than 40 years of age.
      By: edbockstock
      The prognosis for glioblastoma is more positive for patients who are less than 40 years of age.
    • When the cells of a glioblastoma are examined under a microscope, their appearance suggests how cancerous the tumor is.
      By: luchschen_shutter
      When the cells of a glioblastoma are examined under a microscope, their appearance suggests how cancerous the tumor is.
    • The size and location of the tumor affects the prognosis for glioblastoma.
      By: Lisa F. Young
      The size and location of the tumor affects the prognosis for glioblastoma.
    • On average, patients who are diagnosed with glioblastoma live less than one year.
      By: WavebreakmediaMicro
      On average, patients who are diagnosed with glioblastoma live less than one year.
    • Recurrence of glioblastoma after removal is high.
      By: Tryfonov
      Recurrence of glioblastoma after removal is high.