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About Glioblastoma (GBM)

In this section, you or a loved one can find out more about medical treatments, research studies and practical information about glioblastoma. Read on to find answers to some of your questions as well as links to other information. Being informed is an important first step towards becoming an active decision-maker in your care plan.

What Is Glioblastoma?

Glioblastomas (GBMs) are tumours that arise from the star-shaped cells that make up the supportive tissue of the brain. Glioblastomas usually contain a mixture of cell types and are highly malignant. These tumours are highly cancerous because the cells reproduce quickly and they are supported by a vast network of blood vessels. Glioblastoma rarely spreads elsewhere in the body.

There are two types of glioblastomas:

Primary or de novo: This form of glioblastoma is very aggressive. This is the most common form of glioblastoma and tumours present themselves very quickly.

Secondary: These tumours begin as lower-grade tumours, which eventually become higher grade. They are still very aggressive.

What Causes Glioblastoma?

The exact cause of glioblastoma is unknown.

What Are the Effects of Glioblastoma?

Glioblastomas grow rapidly and the most common symptoms are usually caused by increased pressure in the brain. Other symptoms and signs may be caused by the part of the brain affected by the tumour:

  • Drowsiness 
  • Headache 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting, memory, thinking and behaviour changes
  • Vision changes – blurred vision, double vision or vision loss
  • Weakness or paralysis of one side of the body
  • Difficulties with speech
Which Body Parts Are Affected?

Glioblastomas are generally found in the brain, but can also be found in the spinal cord.

Are There Other Complications?

People with brain tumours often suffer from:

  • Blood clots
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Hearing loss
  • Hormone changes
  • Seizures
  • Sensory and motor control issues

These symptoms may be associated with the type, size and location of the tumour, as well as the treatments used to manage it.


After surgery or other treatment, you may experience a sense of deep fatigue. Coping strategies for fatigue include: pacing your activities, adjusting your diet, exercising moderately and medication.

Lifestyle Options

For most people, regardless of having cancer or not, exercise, healthy eating and good sleeping habits are recommended. A healthy lifestyle can lead to an enhanced quality of life for most people. Talk to your doctor before making any lifestyle changes.

Healthier diet:

Remove white food

White food tends to be processed food, low in nutrients and high in sugar. However, don’t take out all bread from your diet – grains can be an important source of fibre, selenium and vitamins B and E.

Colourful fruit and vegetables

The more vibrant the colour of a fruit or vegetable, the higher the nutritional content is. Try the “3-colours-a-day” trick as an easy way of ensuring fruit and vegetables make it to your menu.

Drink water

Our bodies need at least eight glasses of fluid a day. During chemotherapy, additional fluids are needed to replace fluid lost through treatment side effects. The weight gain and puffiness caused by steroids might tempt you to skimp on your water. Don’t – avoiding water now will only worsen the side effects.

Eat healthy fat

Healthy fat, like omega-3, may increase the activity of the immune system. Flaxseed is the richest plant source of these healthy omega-3 fats. Oily fish, such as lake trout, herring and sardines, as well as canola and walnut oil are all excellent sources of omega-3 fats.

Complementary Therapy Options

Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care. These methods can include vitamins, herbs and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage. Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor’s medical treatment. Make sure that you talk to your cancer care team, they can help you to find out what is known about the method, which can help you to make an informed decision.

Medical Treatments

The first step in treating glioblastoma is a procedure to make a diagnosis, relieve pressure on the brain and safely remove as much tumour as possible through surgery. Glioblastomas have finger-like tentacles that are very difficult to completely remove. Because the tumours contain so many different types of cells, glioblastoma can be difficult to treat. Some cells may respond well to specific therapy, while others may see no effect. This is why the treatment plan for glioblastoma may combine several approaches.

Radiation and chemotherapy may be used to slow the growth of tumours that cannot be removed with surgery. Chemotherapy may be used to delay the need for radiation in young children. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and other treatments all have the potential to generate new symptoms. Some glioblastoma treatments are available through research studies called clinical trials.

Other Intervention:


A physiotherapist can help you gradually restore functions and give you helpful exercises to do at home. Exercises include those to improve your strength, to restore limb movement and to improve balance, and ways to compensate for lost functions.

Speech therapy:  

Speech therapists not only help with speaking, but with swallowing problems associated with certain brain tumours. A speech therapist will test you and build a custom plan to fit your therapy needs.

Occupational therapy:  

An occupational therapist will help you to regain the ability to accomplish everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing and eating.


Please note that the information on this website is intended for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for seeking medical advice or treatment from a healthcare professional. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a medical condition or health problem. Speak to a doctor if you have any questions about your health, medical condition, symptoms or treatment options.


Leading UK cancer charity

American Cancer Society

For over 100 years, the American Cancer Society has worked relentlessly to save lives and create a world with less cancer. Together with millions of our supporters worldwide, the American Cancer Society helps people to stay well and get well, find cures, and fight back against cancer.

American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA)

Founded in 1973, the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) was the first and is the only national advocacy organisation committed to funding brain tumour research, and providing information and education on all tumour types and all age groups. For over 40 years, the ABTA has been providing comprehensive resources that support the complex needs of brain tumour patients and caregivers, as well as the critical funding of research in the pursuit of breakthroughs in brain tumour diagnosis, treatment and care.


What is a Clinical Trial? 

Find out all about clinical trials.

What to expect in a clinical trial 

All the information and answers you need before, during and after a clinical trial