Glioblastoma Multiforme


Glioblastoma is a fast-growing type of tumor found in the brain or spinal cord. It is a type of astrocytoma and is the most malignant of the astrocytomas. These tumors arise from astrocytes, which are a type of cell found in the brain. These cells make up the supportive tissue of the brain.

Glioblastoma also is referred to as glioblastoma multiforme, GBM, grade III or IV astrocytoma, malignant glioma, or anaplastic glioma.

Because glioblastoma is so aggressive, complete surgical removal is not possible, and long term survival is rare.

There are two types of grade IV glioblastomas—primary, or de novo, and secondary. Primary, or de novo astrocytomas are very aggressive and the most common of this type. They grow and spread to the other parts of the brain quickly and often become quite advanced before producing any symptoms. Secondary astrocytomas are astrocytomas that started as a lower grade tumor and evolved to a grade IV.

General information

While glioblastomas can occur at any age, they occur most often in adults between 45 and 80 years of age, and account for 60-75% of all astrocytomas. Because they can occur in different parts of the brain and spinal cord, symptoms may vary. Symptoms can include: headaches, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, weakness or paralysis of a part of the body, memory or speech difficulties, changes in mood or personality, visual changes, and seizures.

Glioblastomas are diagnosed using blood tests, neurological examinations, and imaging such as MRI, CT, and PET and SPECT scans. The only definitive way to diagnose a glioblastoma is with a biopsy of the tumor.

Treatment varies depending on the location of the glioblastoma, but may involve surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy. It can be difficult to treat due to the complexity and variability of the tumor.
Because symptoms vary and can be explained by other medical conditions, any medical questions you have should be directed to your doctor. Because treatment modalities differ depending on your age and the characteristics of the tumor, questions regarding treatment also should be directed to your doctor.

Social Security Administration POMS DI 23022.185 — Glioblastoma Multiforme (Adult Brain Tumor)

Glioblastoma multiforme is listed under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Compassionate Allowance Program, which was launched in 2008 to expedite certain disability claims. Applying for disability benefits under the Compassionate Allowance Program requires the same procedure every applicant must follow when applying for SSA disability benefits; however, you will be notified if your condition is being considered as a compassionate allowance.

The SSA uses a pathology report to confirm the diagnosis of glioblastoma. If you have been diagnosed with glioblastoma, you qualify for disability under the Social Security Administration’s guidelines, provided you meet the nonmedical guidelines. Your representative may be able to help expedite your disability claim if you have a diagnosis of glioblastoma.