Long-term follow-up examinations are critical for people who have had brain tumors. Not only do many brain tumors return after initial treatment, but some are simply resistant to treatment. Side effects from brain tumors and its treatment are also common.
Following surgery for a brain tumor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, you will have an MRI scan to determine exactly how much of the tumor was removed, and to help plan any additional treatment. Periodic MRI scans are also performed after radiation therapy and chemotherapy to watch for any new tumor growth.
If follow-up examinations reveal a recurrence of cancer, or if you begin to experience new symptoms of a tumor, specialists at the Brain Tumor Center can often provide treatments that can extend survival and improve quality of life. This may include additional treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy, or other therapies to help you manage the side effects of treatment. Some patients are also eligible for clinical trials of new treatment approaches.
As an outpatient physical therapist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Sebi Varghese is at the forefront of developing creative new approaches to rehabilitation for cancer patients. Varghese and her team use a variety of methods to help patients restore range of motion, reduce pain, increase energy, and become active participants in their recovery. Taking part in someone's recovery — and hopefully opening up a new chapter in his or her life — is very satisfying, she says.
Regardless of the symptoms of the tumor and the type of treatment you undergo, our expert rehabilitation team can help to improve your level of physical function during and after your treatment. Experts in rehabilitation work closely with neurologists and other members of your clinical team to help you manage any physical changes that result.
Depending on its location, a brain tumor can cause weakness, loss of balance, speech problems, and loss of vision. Physical and occupational rehabilitation can help to address these side effects, and are an important part of the care we provide.
Based on a comprehensive evaluation that we do following surgery, our team will teach you and your family about specific:
- precautions you should take regarding walking and moving around, which may sometimes include using a cane or walker
- exercises to help get you stronger and more stable in terms of balance and endurance
- techniques to preserve your energy
Learn more about rehabilitation at Memorial Sloan-Kettering.
Treatment for Cognitive Side Effects
Brain tumors and their treatment can also affect cognitive functions such as thinking and memory. In some cases, the tumor itself causes cognitive problems. In others, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery can affect brain function. These side effects develop for some patients during or shortly after their treatment; for others, it may take some time for long-term effects to appear.
Cognitive changes can be obvious to others, or can be so subtle that your friends and family fail to notice. They commonly include:
- Trouble remembering details, such as names and dates
- Short attention span or difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty with short-term memory and learning new information
- Problems multitasking, such as cleaning and talking on the phone at the same time
At the Brain Tumor Center, care for these and other cognitive side effects is integrated into your treatment and follow-up care. Memorial Sloan-Kettering neuropsychologists and psychiatrists work closely with neurologists on your disease management team to assess and develop a strategy to manage any treatment-related impairment.
Treatment for cognitive side effects can include medications and/or cognitive rehabilitation. We can prescribe medications that activate your brain and reduce fatigue. We can also teach you rehabilitation techniques to compensate for thinking and memory problems.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive treatment for cognitive changes associated with cancer treatment. However, we are researching various approaches, and trying to better understand how treatment affects brain structure and function.