Glioblastoma is the most aggressive type of brain cancer. You can take specific steps to increase your chances of survival if you have this type of tumor.
Glioblastomas are rare in adults younger than 55 years, accounting for only about 10% of all primary brain tumors. But in people aged 55 and over, glioblastoma is more common – accounting for nearly half of all primary brain tumors in this age group.
According to the American Cancer Society, only about 10% of people are diagnosed glioblastoma aged over 65 years.
In general, malignant brain tumors are often a consequence of the natural process of aging. As we age, our brains accumulate damage from normal aging processes, such as inflammation and oxidative stress. This damage can result in DNA mutations that trigger tumor growth.
This article will help you with very common doubts related to glioblastoma.
What is Glioblastoma?
Cancer is a condition in which cells in the body grow out of control. Glioblastoma is a type of cancer that starts in the brain. Also, glioblastoma starts from glial cells, an important part of nerve cells.
Glioblastoma multiforme is a cancer cell that spreads to the brain and rapidly increases and spreads infection to the glial cells.
Glioblastoma can start in the brain or spine and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the brain and spine. Moreover, Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive type of brain cancer.
It’s rare in younger adults but relatively common in adults 55 and older. In older adults, glioblastoma is about half of all brain tumors.
What Are the Symptoms of Glioblastoma?
Signs and symptoms of glioblastoma vary from person to person. The main symptoms are changes in mental function, such as:
- Disturbed thinking
- Personality changes
Other symptoms may include:
- Lose balance
- Difficulty walking
Symptoms can appear suddenly or develop slowly over time. Symptoms of glioblastoma are often not detectable on brain scans.
Brain scans can help rule out glioblastoma and determine the tumor’s grade (low-grade or high-grade).
What Are the Treatments for Glioblastoma in Older Adults?
Treatment of glioblastoma in older adults often consists of chemotherapy and surgery to remove any visible tumor mass.
Treatment can vary depending on the size and location of the tumor, a person’s health, and their prognosis.
- Chemotherapy: This is a common method of treating glioblastoma in older adults because it can work to kill cancer cells when the location of the tumor is unknown. Chemotherapy drugs are given intravenously (IV) into a vein. The drug spreads throughout the body, including the brain. However, chemotherapy is not practical for treating glioblastoma when the tumor size is larger than 2 cm.
- Operation: Surgery is the first line of treatment for glioblastoma in older adults. It may be useful to confirm the diagnosis, determine the size and location of the tumor, or remove as much of the cancer as possible. In addition, surgery can also relieve symptoms caused by the tumor, such as seizures, headaches, or problems with movement or sensation. In addition, surgery can sometimes be performed to relieve pressure from the tumor on the surrounding brain tissue.
- Radiation: Radiation therapy helps destroy cancer cells because they cannot grow back or spread to more different areas of the brain using S-rays.
- Tumor treatment field: A wearable device that sends low-intensity electrodes to the scalp thereby destroying cancer cells and preventing tumor regrowth or spread.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery: Gamma knife radiosurgery is an advanced form of radiation therapy. Stereotactic radiosurgery. It’s not a surgical operation, despite the term. A highly focused X-ray beam precisely targets the tumor, causing minimal damage to healthy tissue. Providers sometimes use this method as GBM progresses following the first IMRT.
Every treatment has side effects, and it is necessary to manage them effectively and carefully. So, let’s realize what might be the problem and how to solve it.
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How to Manage Side Effects of Glioblastoma Treatment in Older Adults?
Side Effects for treatment may differ in different ways in different cases; Some common side effects of glioblastoma treatment include:
- Nausea and vomiting: You may want to try eating small snacks. Avoid drinking alcohol, which can make nausea worse. If the nausea is severe and doesn’t get better after a few days, talk to your healthcare provider. Discuss medications that can help relieve these symptoms, such as anti-nausea medications.
- Fatigue: Try to sleep when tired, and rest as often as possible during the day. You may want to exercise to help boost your energy, but avoid exercising too much as it can make fatigue worse.
- Difficulty with concentration: You may want to break up a large task into smaller, more manageable parts.
- Increased risk: If the person has a medical history of ionizing radiation to the brain or has syndromes such as Turcot, Li-Fraumeni, or neurofibromatosis, then these syndromes may be a cause of risk for the patient.
- Radiation and oral therapy usually go together, but in elderly patients, it depends on how the patient can handle it.
- Patients on medication should avoid exposure to synthetic rubber, pesticides, petroleum, or vinyl chloride. This is because exposure to these things can cause dangerous side effects from radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Let’s understand the relationship between glioblastoma and cognitive function in older adults.
Glioblastomas and Cognitive Function in Older Adults
Cognitive decline is a profound side effect of glioblastoma in older adults. This is often the result of a combination of the tumor and the treatments used to treat it.
However, not everyone with glioblastoma experiences cognitive decline; some people even get better after treatment. The two types of mental function that glioblastoma often affects are short-term memory (also known as working memory) and long-term memory.
Both types of functions are necessary for many daily activities, such as learning new skills and driving.
Living with Glioblastoma and Getting Help from a Support Network
When dealing with glioblastoma, you may feel unsure about your future and hesitate to share your feelings with others.
You may start to feel isolated and depressed and lose your ability to enjoy certain aspects of everyday life.
Nonetheless, you can find support from loved ones and organizations designed to help people with glioblastoma.
Consider joining a support group where you can talk to others going through similar experiences. You can find a support group near you by visiting the National Cancer Institute website.
Pankaj S. is the Co-founder and CEO at ClinicSpots. A serial entrepreneur, Pankaj is a passionate Content Creator and Content Marketer. He has over 15 years of diverse experience in healthcare, entrepreneurship, business and product development. His creation, ClinicSpots, is a digital health company that empowers users (patients) to find doctors and envision creating the world’s next Quora Medical.