ZocdocAnswersAre all glioblastomas malignant?

Question

Are all glioblastomas malignant?

Hello. A friend of a friend was diagnosed with glioblastomas. Is this treatable? Are they malignant? Will they have to operate? Jus trying to understand what this means for her.

Answer

First of all, let me express my condolences to you, your friend, and her friend. Glial tumors encompass a number of brain and spinal tumors, including astrocytomas, ependymal tumors, glioblastoma multiforme (a subset of astrocytomas), and primitive neuroectodermal tumors. You don't need to know the specifics of all of these but basically just understand that they are tumors of the glial cells which are various types of support cells for the neurons in the central nervous system. Unfortunately, when physicians are discussing glioblastomas, we are almost always talking more specifically about glioblastoma multiforme. This is the most common and unfortunately the most malignant and deadly type of brain tumor. They can either develop over time from lower grade astrocytomas or can appear without any evidence of an earlier tumor. If found very early and the tumor appears to be contained and accessible, surgical resection, radiation, and chemotherapy may be curative. However, for the vast majority of patients, treatment is palliative. Considering you mention glioblastomas in plural, it sounds like your friend's friend has multiple ones that have spread, which is a worse prognosis. Without therapy, nearly all patients will die within 3 months of diagnosis. With treatment, approximately half will live for 12 months. Nonetheless, fewer than 25% will live for 2 years and less than 10 will live for 5 or more years after diagnosis. Your friend should discuss treatment options with the neurologist as soon as possible.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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