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What Is the Prognosis of Glioblastoma?

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  • Written By: H. Colledge
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  • Last Modified Date: 16 March 2014
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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.

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.

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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.

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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anon937719
Post 22

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.

anon937150
Post 21

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.

anon932248
Post 20

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?

anon926027
Post 19

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

anon356843
Post 18

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.

amypollick
Post 17

@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.

anon351647
Post 16

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?

anon343568
Post 15

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.

anon343499
Post 14

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.

anon336795
Post 13

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?

anon331305
Post 12

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.

anon331216
Post 11

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.

anon329473
Post 10

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.

anon322704
Post 9

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.

anon312685
Post 8

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.

anon309354
Post 7

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!

anon306445
Post 6

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.

anon283532
Post 4

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!

anon282395
Post 3

@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.

anon281885
Post 2

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

anon194155
Post 1

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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