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How Effective Is Chemotherapy for Glioblastoma?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Chemotherapy for glioblastoma can improve survival chances for the patient, although it and other treatments cannot cure the cancer. The goal of glioblastoma treatment is to extend the patient's life and keep the quality of it as high as possible. Experimental treatments may offer more options but are not available to all patients. People with an interest in clinical trial participation can discuss their options with their doctors to decide if participation in research would be a good choice for them.

There are three separate treatments used to manage glioblastoma, and patients tend to experience the best outcome when all three are used together. The first line treatment is surgery to remove the brain tumor. The second is radiation to kill any additional cells left in the brain. Next comes chemotherapy to target remaining cancer cells and prevent the recurrence of the cancer. Doctors may offer chemotherapy in conjunction with radiation or after a waiting period, depending on their preferences.

Patients who receive only chemotherapy for glioblastoma will not have a very good outcome. The medications can suppress tumor growth and may kill some cancer cells, but the cancer is too aggressive for the medications to hold it at bay. Patients need the other two treatments to experience the best chance at a positive outcome. Even with all three treatments, glioblastoma will eventually be fatal for the patient.

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When considering chemotherapy for glioblastoma, there are a number of medications available. A doctor may discuss the options with a patient, based on the specific details of the cancer and other concerns, such as prior health conditions. Patients on chemotherapy can experience significant side effects and must exercise caution because the medications can cause birth defects. Women cannot get pregnant while on chemotherapy for glioblastoma, and men need to take precautions to prevent impregnating their partners while they are in treatment.

The variability of glioblastoma tumors can play a role in the effectiveness of chemotherapy for glioblastoma. As the patient undergoes treatment, the doctor may request follow-up testing to see if the tumor responds. If a first line treatment doesn't work, it does not mean that the cancer will resist all treatments and the patient's prognosis is poor, which is important to keep in mind during follow-up testing and monitoring. In the event the tumor appears to be aggressive, it may be necessary to try different medications to determine if the cancer will respond to those.

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