Stage 4 or Grade IV is the most advanced type of cancer in which the tumors are highly malignant.
Stages of Brain Cancer :
Grade 1 : They are very mild tumor and the cells are not malignant (cancer causing). Often, the growth of tumor is very slow and it looks very much normal in appearance. Surgery is highly effective for grade 1 tumor. Some of the common types of this type of brain cancer are gangliocytoma, pilocytic astrocytoma and craniopharnygioma. These tumors do not cause any problem to the person and he/she would have almost no symptoms.
Grade 2 : This type is not malignant but the growth is more than the first grade. The tumor may look abnormal when viewed through a microscope. Treatment is highly effective even in this grade and only in few cases the tumor would spread to nearby tissues passing on to malignant stage.
Grade 3 : These types of tumor are malignant (cancerous) and the cells are truly abnormal growing rapidly in size and shape. The cancerous cells often metastasize to the nearby tissues of the brain and even after surgery and other treatments, cancer may recur.
Grade 4 : This type of brain cancer is the most malignant one and they multiply rapidly giving bizarre appearance when seen under a microscope. They often attack and spread to other tissues and cells nearby. Blood vessels would form from these cells so that cancerous tumor can easily grow and multiply. Glioblastoma is an example of grade 4 tumor. Rate of survival is almost nil in this stage. It is also known as anaplastic astrocytoma.
Exact cause is not known. But glioblastoma is common in males when compared with females. It occurs commonly in the lobes but in some cases it may develop on the cerebellum also. People (males, in particular) of above 55 years are at risk of developing brain cancer. Over exposure of radiation treatment increases the risk.
In some cases there are no symptoms until the cancer has progressed to grade 3 or 4. However symptoms of brain cancer vary with respect to its size and location. Some people may have signs of intense headache, seizures, nausea and vomiting. But this can also cause change in mental status, personality changes, loss of memory and slurred speech all of a sudden.
After completing the imaging tests like MRI scanning, your doctor would order for a biopsy. Biopsy is the process of removing tiny sample of cancerous cell and testing it in the laboratory to get clear picture about the grade of cancer. If the tumor cells look very much like normal healthy cells, it is described as low grade tumor. Here the chance of recovery is high after surgery or any treatment and often this is grouped under Grade 1 and 2.
But if the tissue studied under a microscope is totally looking different from the healthy tissue it is described as high grade tumor. Rate of survival is low in high grade (which falls under Grade 3 and 4). In grade 3 tumor the cells are actively dividing and it is hypercellular. At this stage the tumor is known as anaplastic astrocytoma. In grade 4 apart from the active division and multiplication of cells it also has growth of blood vessel and accumulation of dead cells in it. This stage is described as glioblastoma.
Stage 4 of brain cancer cannot be cured but treatment is given to control the growth of tumor and to prevent the invading of cancer cells to other tissues and organs.
- Surgery :
This is the first line treatment for grade 4 cancer of brain. The surgeon is the right person to decide whether particular patient is suitable for surgical approach. He would completely remove the tumor causing cells along with some of the healthy cells nearby. However complete removal of tumor may not be possible in certain regions of the brain. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy is given after surgery to destroy the leftover cancer cells.