John McCain Cause Of Death: What Is Glioblastoma?

Larry FrenchGetty Images

Arizona Senator John McCain passed away Saturday at the age of 81 after suffering from glioblastoma. On Friday, the McCain family announced that he was discontinuing treatment for the tumor after nearly a year. The tumor was first diagnosed in July of 2017, after McCain had surgery for a blood clot, as the Inquisitr previously reported.

A press release from McCain’s office stated that “subsequent tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot.”

According to the American Brain Tumor Association, glioblastomas are tumors that appear in the supportive, “glue-like” tissue of the brain. They are also in the “cerebral hemispheres of the brain, but can be found anywhere in the brain or spinal cord.” Because the cells are able to produce quickly and are supported by a “large network of blood vessels,” the tumors are highly malignant. The tumors come from normal brain cells, so they are usually able to infiltrate and nestle into normal brain tissue. However, glioblastomas rarely spread throughout the body.

There are two types of glioblastomas: primary and secondary. Primary glioblastoma is the most common type, and also the most aggressive. This type forms quickly, and symptoms are often felt shortly thereafter. Secondary glioblastomas account for 10 percent of all cases. Though they are slower to form, the tumors are still highly aggressive.

Because of their aggressive nature, symptoms of glioblastoma tend to present themselves quickly. Most symptoms are caused by additional pressure in the brain and can include things like headaches, nausea and vomiting, and fatigue. In some cases, those afflicted with glioblastoma develop additional symptoms, such as weakness on one side of the body, difficulty with memory or speech, and changes in vision. Since the tumor forms in “finger-like tentacles,” it can be difficult to remove, especially when the tumor resides near a part of the brain that is responsible for language and coordination. After surgery, patients often undergo radiation and chemotherapy to slow the growth of new cancerous cells.

Adults afflicted by glioblastoma usually have a “median survival” rate, which can be about 14.6 months. Glioblastomas are more likely to appear in older adults. Men are more often diagnosed with this type of cancer than women.

McCain spoke out about his diagnosis in an interview with 60 Minutes last September, according to Newsweek. He addressed the prognosis of his tumor, saying: “Some say three percent, some say 14 percent. You know, it’s — it’s a very poor prognosis.”

In a career that spanned over 40 years, McCain was known for being a renegade who spoke out against policies or politicians he deemed unjust. He is survived by his wife, Cindy, their seven children, and his mother, Roberta. His three sons have followed in the McCain family tradition of serving in the armed forces. His daughter, Meghan, is a political commentator and host on The View.