Learning more about Sen. McCain’s brain cancer, glioblastoma

Photo of brain scan. (WISH photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Glioblastoma is an aggressive form of brain cancer that typically begins in the brain or spinal cord.

Recently Senator John McCain had surgery to remove a blood clot about his eye. That is when doctors discovered brain cancer.

A doctor with Indiana University Health said they see about three to four new patients with glioblastoma each month.

“We don’t know what causes it. We know people have raised all sorts of concerns. Some people have talked about cell phones and the data just does not show that. We’re not sure why it happens. It does not run in families,” said doctor of hematology and oncology, Sara Jo Grethlein.

Glioblastomas (GBM) are tumors that come from astrocytes which are star-shaped cells that make up the supportive tissue of the brain.

These tumors are usually highly malignant (cancerous) because the cells reproduce quickly and they are supported by a large network of blood vessels, according to the American Brain Tumor Association.

The average survival rate for this type of cancer is typically a year and a half to two years.

Treatment usually involves three methods that include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

There are various symptoms related to the cancer.

“It’s not unusual for patients to come to attention with bad headaches. Daily headaches that are severe, sometimes impacting vision, nausea can happen and changes in your ability to function neurologically,” Grethlein added.

There are various types of research in the works at IU Health. More information can be found here.

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