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How long can you have glioblastoma before experiencing symptoms?

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A GLIOBLASTOMA is a devastating diagnosis.

More than 2,000 people in the UK are told they have the aggressive and lethal brain tumour each year.

 Headaches are a key sign of a brain tumour

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Headaches are a key sign of a brain tumourCredit: Getty – Contributor

Some people may live for only a few months after their diagnosis, while others can live for five years, sometimes more in extremely rare cases.

Knowing the symptoms of the disease may help get an earlier diagnosis.

What is glioblastoma?

Glioblastomas are grade 4 brain tumours and are sometimes called glioblastoma multiforme.

It is a type of glioma, one of the most common types of primary brain tumors and making up around a third.

The cancer begins in the brain and almost never spreads to other parts of the body. However, it’s complexity makes it difficult to treat.

It is also resistant to treatment, as the cells within the tumour are not all of the same type.

There are no known causes of glioblastoma, as is the case with most brain tumours, therefore, there is no clear way to prevent the disease.

The first line of treatment is surgery to try and cut the tumour out. However, because glioblastomas “diffuse”, meaning they invade healthy cells around them, it’s very difficult to remove the tumour without harming healthy parts of the brain.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be helpful to stop the tumour cells growing and spreading. But despite the high intensity of the treatment, the cancer usually recurs.

How long can you have glioblastoma before experiencing symptoms

Glioblastomas are very fast growing. Once found, experts can see them double within seven weeks.

But, according to Dr Stephen Bagley, assistant professor of medicine at Penn Medicine, the first spark of glioblastoma in the brain remains something of a mystery to medical experts.

One study concluded that a glioblastoma starts growing 330 days on average – almost a year – before a diagnosis.

Another found that there are changes in immune function up to five years before a diagnosis, with markers in blood samples – but symptoms only occur three months prior.

Glioblastomas have the power to suppress the immune system, allowing them to grow.

The symptoms can initially be quite non-specific. The brain controls so many different functions that the symptoms someone experiences will depend partly on where the tumour is.

People may confuse their symptoms for various other problems, such as stress or even a hangover.

The symptoms can get worse very quickly, sometimes progressing to unconsciousness.

Brain Tumour Research says tumours increase pressure in the skull, causing headaches.

Symptoms to look for are:

Headaches
Loss of appetite
Nausea and vomiting
Loss of balance
Mood swings
Problems speaking
Problems with memory or concentration
Seizures
Impaired vision

What is the life expectancy of someone with glioblastoma?

For most people diagnosed with glioblastoma the life expectancy is between 12 to 15 months.

However, 25 per cent of glioblastoma patients survive more than one year and five per cent of patients survive more than five years, Brain Tumour Research says, although the reasons why some live longer than others is not clear.

“Less than one per cent of all patients with a glioblastoma live for more than ten years, so in the majority of cases, it is fatal,” the charity says.

Those who decide not to have treatment are expected to live for around three months.

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