• What is glioblastoma, the cancer Sen. John McCain was diagnosed with?

    By: Debbie Lord, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:

    Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.

    The cancer was discovered when McCain underwent surgery last week to remove a blood clot from behind his eye. During the surgery, tissue surrounding the clot was tested and the cancer was found.

    Here’s a look at the type of cancer McCain is suffering from and the prognosis.

    What type of cancer is it?

    McCain was diagnosed with primary glioblastoma, a type of brain tumor. Primary glioblastoma means the cancer started in the brain.

    What is glioblastoma?

    Glioblastoma forms in the tissue of the brain and the spinal cord. It is a very aggressive form of cancer.

    What are the symptoms?

    According to the Mayo Clinic, these are the symptoms of glioblastoma:
    Headache
    Nausea or vomiting
    Confusion or a decline in brain function
    Memory loss
    Personality changes or irritability
    Difficulty with balance
    Urinary incontinence
    Vision problems, such as blurred vision, double vision or loss of peripheral vision
    Speech difficulties
    Seizures, especially in someone without a history of seizures

    Are there risk factors?

    The Mayo Clinic lists these factors.
    Age: Gliomas are generally diagnosed in people between the ages of 60 and 80, though it can occur at any age. McCain is 80.

    Radiation exposure:

    Those who have been exposed to ionizing radiation have an increased risk of brain cancer. Ionizing radiation is the type of radiation used to treat cancer. It is also the type of radiation that is caused by the explosion of an atomic bomb.

    Family history:

    Family history of brain cancer can increase the chances of contracting the disease.


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    Why did they do the surgery last week?

    The cancer was found during one of the routine screenings McCain has had for years since being diagnosed with skin cancer. McCain suffered three bouts of melanoma– in 1993, 2000 and 2002. Those cancers did not spread, according to McCain’s doctors.

    How bad is the cancer? What is the prognosis?

    Glioblastoma is a particularly aggressive form of cancer, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. The prognosis is often poor. The average survival rate for patients with malignant glioblastoma tends to be around 14 months with treatment. Around 10 percent of patients with the disease live five years or longer.
    McCain is in very good health, according to his doctors. He has not had problems with balance, headaches or seizures, according to a CNN story.

    Did they get all of the tumor?

    According to the CNN story, McCain’s doctors said the tissue in which the cancer was found had been completely removed.

    Sen. John McCain (file photo)
    Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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