With the recent news that Senator John McCain is suffering from a brain tumor, there's been a of talk about brain cancer, how it impacts a patient and what kind of treatments work best. While there is no "good kind" of cancer, different forms of the disease have different symptoms and will respond to different treatments. Glioblastoma, the kind of tumor that Senator McCain has been diagnosed with, is sadly one of the more aggressive and lethal forms of cancer. Of the more than 23,000 cases of primary brain cancer that will occur in adults in just one year in the United States, glioblastoma is the most common. It strikes older adults more than younger people and is more common in men than it is in women.
Because glioblastoma tumors sit right on the brain, they can impact vision, cause headaches, dizziness, slurred speech and seizures. Treatments include a combination of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, however these measures will normally only buy time. The blood brain barrier prevents most medications from reaching the tumor to actively kill cells and shrink growth. What normally happens is that the cancer slows down a bit, giving patients a respite from metastasis. In the coming months, Senator McCain will likely have a hard road ahead of him and his family, but new discoveries are constantly being made in the fight against the disease, so there is always reason to hope.