What makes the difference in survival? Youth helps. A younger person is less likely to develop glioblastoma in the first place. A younger person is more likely to survive longer once diagnosed. Successful surgery helps too. If at least 98% of the brain tumor is removed, that person is more likely to live longer. Still, just as we cannot predict exactly who will develop which cancer, we cannot predict who will be that one-in-twenty-five so-called miracle.
In addition, glioblastoma, like pancreatic cancer, is rarely caught early. Symptoms often don’t emerge until the tumor is large, and the size of the tumor is an important factor in determining the stage of the cancer and, by extension, the prognosis. For the deadliest cancers, early diagnosis may matter most in surviving even a few years, but early diagnosis in these cancers may also be less likely. Symptoms like nausea and headache may be racked up to other health problems, or by the time glioblastoma causes a seizure, the cancer may be well advanced. The five-year survival rate for someone diagnosed with the later stages of glioblastoma is pretty much zero. And zero was what this Saturday meant for our friend.