Stage 4 Brain Cancer

Stage 4 brain cancer is the latest stage rating that doctors give to brain cancer. Stages range from 1 to 4. This rating is based on is maligancy (their tendency to become worse). Both grade 3 and grade 4 tumors are labeled as ‘high-grade’ tumors. This grade is usually assigned after biopsy results are obtained.

Stage 4 Brain Cancer Characteristics

The characteristic that sets grade 4 apart from the other grades is the brain tumors ability to grow quickly and spread to other tissues. This is discovered by observing mitosis or the division and replication of cells. Additionally, stage 4 brain cancer tumors outgrow their blood supply, a condition called ‘necrosis’. The star shaped cells that make up the supporting tissues of the brain are called astrocytes. These reproduce quickly in part because they are supported with a lot of blood. Hence such cancer tends to spread very quickly (highly malignant). Glioblastomas very rarely spread to any other areas of the body.

Glioblastomas can be found anywhere in the brain. They are however more common in the cerebral hemispheres, typically referred to as the left and right sides of the brain.

brain cerebral hemispheres

Treatment of Stage 4 Brain Cancer

The usual treatments are:

  • chemotherapy
  • surgery
  • radiation

The downsides of these treatment options are well known.

Surgery is often the first treatment wherein the doctor opens the skull and removes as much of the tumor as possible. Then radiation and chemo follow. MRI is used to monitor the tumor. Note that surgery is highly selective. It can not be done to some areas. Also, ‘brain surgery’ is often used to describe how difficult something is. This is because there is no room for error. It takes a very highly skilled surgeon to perform brain surgery.

The new treatment DCA is a small molecule and it can get in areas that are impossible to operate on. If the standard treatments are not an option for what ever reason, DCA might be a very good idea. DCA can be used with all other forms of treatment. It actually improves the results of chemotherapy and radiation.

Stage 4 Brain Cancer Prognosis

Survival rates vary depending on the type of tumor and the age of the patient with the older patients having the poorest survival rate. The worst prognosis is for glioblastoma multiforme with the patients average survival rate being less than a year. New treatment using DCA (sodium dichloroacetate) has shown promising results. Studies done at they University of Alberta, Canada, on humans shrank tumors by 70% in only 3 weeks. Research into this exciting new alternative cancer treatment is ongoing and may hold great promise for stage 4 brain cancer.

For treatments using temozolamide and radiation the median survival rate is 2-3 years. Clearly much better than doing nothing. Quality of life needs to be considered however. Some therapies have undesirable side effects. There needs to be found that fine balance of prologing life as much as possible and at the same time have an acceptable quality of life.

Please read this very informative brochure from the American Brain Tumor Association

glioblastoma information