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Neurological problems caused by primary and metastatic cancers of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves, along with treatments for the disease, present unique challenges compared to other types of cancer.
The resulting cognitive and physical impairments can interfere with your ability to communicate with others, maintain a healthy diet, and perform everyday tasks.
The following are some common symptoms of cancer-related neurological dysfunction:
The severity of symptoms depends on several factors, including the tumor type, size, location and extent, as well as your treatment regime, age and health history. Depending on which part of the brain or nervous system is involved and the functional system it affects (e.g., motor, sensory, language, etc), you may experience mild to significant neurological dysfunction.
Fortunately, there are new and innovative treatment options for primary and metastatic cancers of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves. Minimally invasive techniques allow doctors to remove and/or target tumors with less damage to healthy areas of the brain and reduced recovery times.
Your doctor may recommend surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and/or immunotherapy. Some medications are also being investigated for their potential to improve cognitive function in cancer patients.
An integrated approach is essential to addressing all the challenges unique to neurological cancers and conditions. In addition to your conventional treatments, behavioral strategies, lifestyle alterations, and nutritional, physical and emotional support, are all essential components of care.
Rehabilitation therapy, in particular, can help improve cognitive function, communication skills and physical performance. For example, physical therapy can help rebuild strength, improve coordination and balance, and restore mobility. Occupational therapy can help with performing everyday activities, like getting dressed, grooming, bathing and eating. Speech-language pathology can help improve speech, cognition, and swallowing problems that may limit your ability to eat and drink safely.
Naturally, it can be difficult to adjust to neurological impairments. Changes in cognitive and physical function can be upsetting, frustrating and scary. In addition to interventions from your cancer team, there are ways you can help yourself so you can continue to participate in important areas of your life.
NOTE: THIS INFORMATION IS NOT INTENDED NOR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE. ALWAYS SEEK THE ADVICE OF YOUR PHYSICIAN OR OTHER QUALIFIED HEALTHCARE PROVIDER REGARDING ANY NEUROLOGICAL PROBLEMS YOU MAY BE EXPERIENCING.
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