Cancer Treatment Centers of America

What challenges do neurological cancer patients face?

Answered by: Clinton J. Baird, MD

Brain and spinal cancer patients face a number of challenges, including impaired neurological function, which can affect communication and mobility, Dr. Baird says. He also describes emotional and functional challenges, and recommends confronting them directly. Dr. Baird underscores the importance of comprehensive care and the significance of seeing that patients can maintain their mobility during and after treatment. 

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Clinton Baird: Neurological cancers both in the brain and spine present very unique challenges as compared to other types of cancer. For example if someone has lung cancer, they may have shortness of breath or other symptoms that challenge them on a daily basis. However, in brain cancer or spinal cancer, our neurological function can be challenged. This can include your ability to communicate with others, your ability to walk or move around in your environment. This presents a challenge that’s unique in both an emotional and functional way. It is very important to understand these challenges and face them directly. The incidence of depression is often much higher in neurological cancers both because of the emotional content associated with losing a neurological function, but also with its direct effects on the brain itself. It’s important to remember the integrated care that needs to be delivered to a patient with a brain or spinal cancer, to allow recovering of all the possible conditions and challenges that can come up that are unique to a brain or spinal cancer. In the overall treatment of a cancer patient it’s very important to remember how critical mobility is. Someone can improve their quality of life and function by maintaining mobility. This mobility can be anything from daily walks, indoors or outdoors, to just being able to help your caregivers with getting to the bathroom, and getting to the kitchen, or getting out of bed. When one loses mobility, you’re susceptible to the complications that can arise from being bed bound, like pneumonia, or other infections that can develop from not being able to maintain mobility. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America, in focusing on the whole patient, we remember the very critical issue of mobility, and work with you very hard to help maintain your mobility, both through surgical therapies as needed, radiation therapies, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.