Treatment for Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)

Treatment for Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)

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Treatment for Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a type of brain cancer tumor. Treatment is often done with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. GBM is a fast-growing cancer that tends to come back. Survival is usually less than a year, even with treatment.

Coping with treatment for glioblastoma multiforme

You will be working with a team of doctors and other medical staff. Make sure to ask them any questions you have. If you have side effects, have trouble keeping your appointments, or have problems in your personal life, talk with your team. Keep in mind that depression is a common problem during cancer treatment. Ask for a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist if you need one. They can help you cope with your diagnosis and treatment.

Your treatment team

Your treatment team will work together to decide the best way to treat and manage your GBM. Your team may include:

  • Neurologist or neurosurgeon. These are doctors who treat diseases of the brain.

  • Oncologist or neuro-oncologist. These are doctors who treat cancer.

  • Nurses. These health care providers work with you and your doctors to provide care.

  • Social worker. A social worker can help you make plans and decisions about your life.

  • Physical therapist (PT). A PT can help you regain strength and mobility.

  • Occupational therapist (OT). An OT can help you manage day-to-day tasks

Goals of treatment

Your goals of treatment will depend on your age, your overall health, and the size and location of your tumor. They also depend on if the tumor has spread to other parts of your body. You may choose:

  • Active treatment. Active treatment is done to try to cure the cancer. This most often includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

  • Palliative care only. This is care with medicines to ease symptoms only. Some people choose to have only palliative care. It helps a person be comfortable and have the best quality of life without active treatment of the cancer.

Your doctors will help you decide what’s best for you.

Types of active treatment


The first step in active treatment is often surgery. This is done to remove as much of the tumor as possible while keeping as much brain function as possible. Taking out even part of the tumor can help reduce pressure in the brain. This can help ease certain symptoms. Some people have surgery even if there is a large portion of the tumor that can’t be removed. Your surgeon may use MRI during the surgery to help find the growths. The tumor is then sent to a lab. The lab can confirm if it is GBM or another type of tumor. An MRI may be used after surgery to help find any remaining tumor or swelling. In some cases, a magnetic resonance spectroscopy may also be used. This can give more information about the tumor.

Chemotherapy wafers

During surgery, your doctor may put special flat wafers where the tumor was. This is to help keep cancer cells that may remain. The wafers slowly release a chemotherapy medicine.

Other treatments

Depending on your age and overall health, you may have more treatments. They may include:

  • Radiation therapy

  • Chemotherapy, usually the oral medicine temozolomide

  • Medicines to reduce swelling in the brain, such as steroids

  • Medicines to stop seizures, if needed

  • Palliative care to ease symptoms

Side effects of treatment

Treatments often have side effects. Talk with your doctor about what side effects your types of treatment may have. They may include:

  • Increased risk for infection

  • Bleeding

  • Changes in brain function

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Weight gain

  • Mood swings

  • Depression

Follow-up care

You will need regular follow-up care. This is to see how the treatment is working. It is also to watch for signs of the GBM growing back. Your follow-up care will include regular exams and MRIs. Your doctor may send you for a positron emission tomography scan if he or she thinks the GBM is growing back.

If GBM returns

If your GBM returns, you will have the option of more treatment such as:

  • Repeat radiation therapy

  • Chemotherapy with temozolomide or other medicines

  • Additional surgery, which may include placement of wafers

  • The use of low-energy electrical fields to treat the cancer (alternating electrical field therapy)

  • Palliative care

  • Taking part in a clinical trial

Considering a clinical trial

Clinical trials are research studies to test treatments. A clinical trial can let you try a treatment that is not yet widely available. If you have chemotherapy wafers, this may affect your ability to take part in a clinical trial. Talk with your doctor. Some areas of research for GBM treatment include:

  • Other types of chemotherapy

  • Cancer vaccines

  • Targeted therapy

  • Gene therapy

  • Highly focused radiation therapy

  • Medicines to prevent blood vessel growth in tumors

If you want to apply to be in a clinical trial, talk with your health care team.