Malignant gliomas, of grade III and grade IV malignancy, are incurable neoplasms that arise from cells with several well-characterized genetic profile abnormalities that cause uncontrollable growth and infiltration in the brain. Presenting symptoms of both generalized and focal neurological abnormalities are induced by increased intracranial pressure and focal neuronal dysfunction, respectively. On average, patients experience 3 months or less of clinical history before receiving diagnosis based on multifactorial comparison of clinical and pathological presentation of the tumor. Following diagnosis, maximal safe resection and adjuvant radiotherapy and concurrent chemotherapy typically ensues with subsequent management chemotherapy regimens. Despite aggressive treatment approaches, progression or recurrence is highly typical based on 5-yr survival rates of 5.1% and 27.9% of grade IV glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and grade III anaplastic astrocytoma (AA), respectively, the two most common malignant gliomas. Severely progressive clinical and functional deterioration in the terminal stage of care may warrant cessation of curative care replaced with maximal palliative care. Brain tumor patients experience the burden of terminal illness as other cancer patients do, but with added neurological-specific impairments that reduce quality of life. Possible causes of death include herniation, tumor progression, and systemic illness, but can be potentially multifactorial. The following manuscript characterizes the pathological mechanisms of oncogenesis and growth, followed by a comprehensive review of the clinical care for brain tumor patients from symptom onset to cause of death. To aid in the clinical applicability of these concepts, a case study of a single patient “WL”, who received a diagnosis of grade III anaplastic astrocytoma following 3 months of visual deterioration, will prompt the clinical review by illustration of disease course and treatment.
Sullivan, Bonnie R., "Malignant Gliomas: A Case Study" (2016). WWU Honors Program Senior Projects. 34.