Learning About Brain Cancer
- Megan Krafty, a high school student living in Huron, Ohio, discovered she had brain cancer after suffering seizures earlier this year—a diagnosis which led her to be hospitalized and undergo surgery. Her cancer battle led her to miss her school’s homecoming dance, but her hospital caregivers held a surprise party for her.
- Kraft was diagnosed with a type of brain cancer called aggressive, grade 4 glioma.
- Dr. Jon Weingart of the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Brain Tumor Center explains that glioblastoma is a grade 4 glioma brain tumor arising from brain cells called glial cells. The grade refers to how likely the tumor is to grow and spread, with grade 4 being reserved for only the most aggressive tumors.
- While glioblastoma is currently an incurable disease, new brain cancer treatment are providing hope.
- Clinical trials are also a potential option for extending life through experimental treatments. You search for trials using SurvivorNet’s patient pathfinder.
The high schooler’s journey battling an aggressive, grade 4 glioma began after she suffered several seizures at the beginning of last month. As she sought medical advice as to why she had seizures, she learned she had a “golf ball size tumor on her brain” and needed immediate surgery to remove part of her tumor, according to a GoFundMe set up for the teen, which has since raised more than $13,000.Read More
The hospital spokesperson also noted that the compassionate caregivers hope the dance “will help ease the pain of missing the real one.”
Krafty, who had 70 percent of the tumor in surgery, was surprised by her family, boyfriend of two years, and other patients in the rehab when she was taken to the rehab’s gym, according to Fox News Digital, which shared footage of the heartwarming moment.
Video shows Krafty sitting in a wheelchair as she’s arrives at the winter-wonderland-themed dance, dressed in a sparkly pink dress. The party consisted of dancing, listening to music, doing crafts, and enjoying the company of others.
Krafty’s mom Jill also spoke with Fox News Digital, informing them that 30 percent of the tumor had to be left behind due to it being “connected to her nervous system.” Additionally, surgery left her daughter slightly paralyzed on the left side of her body.
However, by the end of the month, Kraft returned to walking without using a walker or wheelchair.
Her mom, who described her high school senior daughter as “the most positive, happy person you’ll ever meet in your life” insisted to Fox News Digital that Krafty has “not once has she let this get her down.”
Expert Advice On Staying Strong Through Cancer
- There Is New Hope for Those Fighting the Same Cancer That Took John McCain & Ted Kennedy; Using Polio & Immunotherapy to Fight Brain Tumors
- Doctors Dismiss Dad’s Dizziness as Issue From Insect Bite. Then a Scan Revealed a Brain Tumor: The Importance of Fighting for the Diagnosis You Need
- The Impact of a Childhood Cancer Diagnosis on the Whole Family — Jayne Wexler Shares Her Story
- “The Mental Game Is as Strong as Medicine”Cancer Survivors Share How They Keep Going In Uncertain Times
- Mental Health: Coping With Feelings of Anger
- Mental Health and Cancer — The Fight, Flight or Freeze Response
- Mental Health: Understanding the Three Wellsprings of Vitality
Leah Young, a certified therapeutic recreation specialist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, also offered some insight into why she and other caregivers at the hospital held the party.
She told the news outlet, “Anything we, as therapists, can do to put a smile on their faces and make their hospital stay easier and a more positive experience is worth it.
“We were not about to let a 17-year-old miss out entirely on the experience, so we brought homecoming to the hospital.”
Krafty is now undergoing six weeks of radiation treatments as she waits for her pathology results from the surgery.
Her mom explained, “We know she has an aggressive, grade 4 glioma, but we’re waiting for the pathology report to tell us what type of glioma and how severe that is.”
What Is Glioblastoma?
Glioblastoma is the most common form of brain cancer, and it is the most aggressive. It grows rapidly in the brain, the most protected part of the body. This means that surgery should be performed swiftly and there are few drugs that can even reach the tumor, given the impenetrable blood/brain barrier, according to SurvivorNet experts.
What’s more, the cells are heterogeneous, meaning that each one must be individually targeted to slow tumor growth.
Additionally, surgery often can not remove all of the cancer because of the way the tumor burrows into the brain, so the tumor starts to grow again immediately after surgery.
The average survival rate is 15 months with treatment, and less than six if left untreated, according to the National Cancer Institute. And while there is a five-year-survival rate of approximately 6%, those individuals will never be cancer-free and must continue receiving radiation and chemotherapy for the rest of their lives.
How Glioblastoma Grows
The grade refers to how likely the tumor is to grow and spread, with grade 4 being reserved for only the most aggressive tumors.
In the case of glioblastoma, “the tumor’s cells are abnormal, and the tumor creates new blood vessels as it grows,” explains Dr. Weingart. “The tumor may accumulate dead cells in its core.”
And at this time, there is little more that is known about glioblastoma.
“Despite all the advances in treatment, we still don’t understand what causes GBMs,” says Dr. Weingart.
What is known is that glioblastoma is not hereditary, is diagnosed in adults more than children, and is slightly more common in men.
There are studies that have presented evidence that link the tumors to cell phone usage, exposure to radiation, or working in a rubber factory, but little else beyond that is known.
Symptoms of Brain Cancer
Symptoms of brain cancer can really depend on the type of tumor, the size, and the location within the brain. And they can be difficult to pinpoint and recognize, because they may seem like symptoms of other condition. But it’s important to recognize any unusual changes in your body, and brain cancer symptoms can include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Confusion/decline in brain function
- Memory loss
- Personality changes/irritability
- Difficulty with balance
- Urinary incontinence
- Vision issues
- Speech difficulties
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t delay going to get checked immediately, especially if symptoms are rapidly worsening. With brain tumors especially, treating the matter with urgency can help save from life-threatening damage.
Optimism With Glioblastoma
Glioblastoma is incurable, however, it is treatable and there is more and more hope with patients living longer lives these days.
Dr. Henry Friedman, a renown neuro-oncologist at Duke Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet that there is indeed more optimism surrounding this disease.
Dr. Friedman and his Duke colleagues are investigating a new therapy that combines the modified poliovirus and immunotherapy to treat glioblastoma. “The modified poliovirus is used to treat this tumor by injecting it directly into the tumor, through a catheter. It is designed to lyse the tumor and cause the tumor cells to basically break up,” he explained.
“I think that the modified poliovirus is going to be a game-changer in glioblastoma,” Dr. Friedman added, “but I should also say that its reach is now extending into melanoma soon to bladder cancer.”
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff