Coping With Brain Tumor Treatment
Brain tumors are abnormal growths of cells within or around the brain. They originate from different types of brain tissue and can either be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). However, regardless of the nature of the tumor, it can still have a significant impact on your brain function and overall health. For this reason, early and accurate diagnosis is critical for effective brain tumor prognosis and outlook.
Coping with a brain tumor is not without its difficulties. During and after treatment, patients may encounter several challenges and roadblocks, from physical symptoms of their condition to the side effects of treatment for brain tumors.
Furthermore, it is also important to consider the emotional aspects of brain tumor treatment. Being diagnosed with a brain tumor is often enough for patients to experience fear, anxiety and uncertainty — while their loved ones each grapple with their own emotions.
Understanding the Brain Tumor Treatment Process
It’s natural to experience a whirlwind of emotions when faced with something as significant as a brain tumor diagnosis. However, by getting to know what you’ll be facing during the treatment process, you can manage expectations and weigh your treatment options. In doing so, you can find comfort as you take an active role in your care.
The treatment process begins with an accurate diagnosis. Using diagnostic tools like imaging techniques (MRI, CT scans) and biopsies, your doctor can determine the type and grade of the tumor, which will be used to determine the best course of treatment.
Depending on several factors, your oncologist may recommend any of the following types of treatment:
- Radiation Therapy
- Targeted Therapy
- Alternating Electric Field Therapy
The Importance of Palliative and Supportive Care
You may experience different side effects or changes to your body over the course of treatment. It is normal to feel concerned about what these side effects might be and how much pain or discomfort you will feel.
However, it may help to know that your team will work with you to alleviate these side effects and the emotional, social and financial effects of treatment. This is known as palliative and supportive care.
Palliative and supportive care is an integral part of cancer treatment that focuses on improving your overall well-being. It can address a broad range of issues, integrating your special needs into care. It works alongside standard oncological care to:
- Minimize physical symptoms, such as fatigue, pain, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and insomnia.
- Provide resources for dealing with the emotional aspects of the cancer diagnosis.
- Explore spiritual beliefs and values to help you find a sense of peace and, in a way, acceptance.
- Help caregivers, including family members and friends, cope with the overwhelming stress and emotions of their loved one’s medical situation.
- Offer assistance with legal and financial worries, employment concerns and other practical needs.
Essentially, the main goal of palliative and supportive care is to provide patients with comprehensive care that focuses on their physical comfort, emotional well-being and understanding of their illness.
Coping With Physical and Behavioral Changes
You can also gain the ability to cope with the changes brought about by brain tumor treatment outside of palliative and supportive care. With the help of your attending physician, your loved ones or your surrounding community, you can learn to take control every step of the way.
Coping With Personality Changes
You may experience changes in your personality after receiving treatment for your brain tumor. Common symptoms associated with these changes include frequent incidents of anger, depression, confusion or mood swings.
These changes may be caused by the treatment, the tumor or emotional turmoil due to feelings of hopelessness. Often, these changes can be difficult to manage on your own.
If you or a loved one notice these changes, speak to your doctor about them. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to help manage these emotional shifts. You can also seek support to help you through these difficult times.
Coping With Cognitive Changes
You may also experience changes in your ability to think or how you behave. Changes in your brain as a result of the tumor or its treatment can alter your mood. It can also make it harder to communicate, concentrate or remember anything, which makes it difficult to function.
These effects can be alleviated through medication and counseling. Various cognitive rehabilitation tools are also available to help you regain as much of your physical, emotional and mental abilities as possible. These include:
- Cognitive compensation techniques help you develop alternate skills to compensate for what was lost (eyesight, speech or movement). You can also gain compensation tools to help you manage your day-to-day activities, such as creating reminder systems and keeping calendars.
- Anger management involves activities that help you control your impulses and behavioral issues through training, counseling or medication.
Coping With Emotional Distress
Feelings of anxiety and depression are common among patients undergoing treatment for brain tumors. These are normal reactions to an overwhelming situation. However, they can also make these situations feel more intense.
Coping with emotional distress involves performing relaxation techniques, taking medication and undergoing counseling. It is also important to be surrounded by people with whom you can talk about these feelings to relieve your emotional problems.
Coping With Physical Symptoms
Many patients report improvements in their mood and overall emotional well-being after experiencing relief from their physical symptoms. This is especially true for patients who report experiencing intense headaches, which are often caused by edema or swelling of the brain.
Your doctor may prescribe steroids to reduce edema. However, they have also been known to cause their own set of problems, such as difficulty sleeping, emotional changes, leg weakness and agitation, among others. If you experience any of these symptoms while taking steroids, report them to your doctor so they can adjust the dose.
Building a Support Network
Living with and undergoing treatment for a brain tumor is an overwhelming journey you should never experience alone. During this challenging time, it is important that you surround yourself with loved ones whom you can turn to for assistance, inspiration and emotional support.
Create a network of trusted people who can help you navigate uncertainties and cope with the challenges you face during treatment.
Eliminate Uncertainty by Seeking a Second Opinion
The physical and emotional toll of a brain tumor and complex treatment options can be overwhelming for patients and their loved ones. Countless difficulties faced during this process can make coping with a brain tumor a long, challenging process.
However, it is important to remember that support and proactive decision-making can help you navigate this difficult path. One way of alleviating your concerns is by seeking a second opinion from an expert in brain tumors.
Obtaining a second opinion empowers you to make better decisions about your care, providing you with more insight and additional perspectives about potential treatment options.
Let Dr. Aaron Cohen-Gadol guide you through this process and make better-informed decisions about your care. Request a second opinion by filling out this form.