After Treatment

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  • What Happens After Gamma Knife Treatment For Brain Cancer?

    Regular follow-up is very important after treatment for a brain tumor. The doctor will want to check closely to be sure that the tumor has not returned. Check-ups usually include general physical and neurologic exams. From time to time, the patient will have CT scans or MRI.

    Patients who receive radiation therapy to large areas of the brain or certain anticancer drugs may have an increased risk of developing leukemia or a second tumor at a later time.  Also, radiation that affects the eyes may lead to the development of cataracts. Patients should carefully follow their doctor’s advice on health care and checkups. If any unusual health problem occurs, they should report it to the doctor as soon as it appears.

    The diagnosis of a brain tumor can change the lives of patients and the people who care about them. These changes can be hard to handle. Patients and their families may have many different and sometimes confusing emotions.

    At times, patients and those close to them may feel frightened, angry, or depressed. These are normal reactions when people face a serious health problem. Most patients, including children and teenagers, find it helps to share their thoughts and feelings with loved ones. Sharing can help everyone feel more at ease and can open the way for others to show their concern and offer their support.

    Worries about tests, treatments, hospital stays, rehabilitation, and medical bills are common. Parents may worry about whether their children will be able to take part in normal school or social activities. Doctors, nurses, social workers, and other members of the health care team may be able to calm fears and ease confusion. They also can provide information and suggest helpful resources.

    Patients and their families are naturally concerned about what the future holds. Sometimes, they use statistics to try to figure out whether the patient will be cured or how long he or she will live. It is important to remember, however, that statistics are averages based on large numbers of patients. They can’t be used to predict what will happen to a certain patient because no two cancer patients are alike. The doctor who takes care of the patient and knows that person’s medical history is in the best position to discuss the patient’s outlook (prognosis).

    People should feel free to ask the doctor about their prognosis, but it is important to keep in mind that not even the doctor can tell exactly what will happen. When doctors talk about recovering from a brain tumor, they may use the term remission rather than cure. Even though many people recover completely, doctors use this term because a brain tumor can recur.

    What Is Rehabilitation?

    Rehabilitation is a very important part of the treatment plan. The goals of rehabilitation depend on the patient’s needs and how the tumor has affected his or her daily activities. The medical team makes every effort to help patients return to their normal activities as soon as possible.

    Patients and their families may need to work with an occupational therapist to overcome any difficulty in activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, bathing, and using the toilet. If an arm or leg is weak or paralyzed, or if a patient has problems with balance, physical therapy may be necessary. Speech therapy may be helpful for individuals having trouble speaking or expressing their thoughts. Speech therapists also work with patients who are having difficulty swallowing.

    If special arrangements are necessary for school-age children, they should be made as soon as possible. Sometimes, children have tutors in the hospital or after they go home from the hospital. Children who have problems learning or remembering what they learn may need tutors or special classes when they return to school.

    What Support Is Available To Cancer Patients?

    Living with a serious disease is not easy. Everyone involved faces many problems and challenges. Finding the strength to cope with these difficulties is easier when people have helpful information and support services.

    The doctor can explain the disease and give advice about treatment, going back to work or school, or other activities. If patients want to discuss concerns about the future, family relationships, and finances, it also may help to talk with a nurse, social worker, counselor, or a member of the clergy.

    Friends and relatives who have had personal experience with cancer can be very supportive. Also, it helps many patients to meet and talk with other people who are facing problems like theirs. Cancer patients often get together in self-help and support groups, where they can share what they have learned about cancer and its treatment and about coping with the disease. In addition to groups for adults with cancer, special support groups for children or teens with cancer or for parents whose children have cancer are available in many cities. It is important to keep in mind, however, that each patient is different. Treatments and ways of dealing with cancer that work for one person may not be right for another, even if they both have the same kind of cancer. It is a good idea to discuss the advice of friends and family members with the doctor.

    Often, a social worker at the hospital or clinic can suggest local and national groups that will help with rehabilitation, emotional support, financial aid, transportation, or home care. The American Cancer Society is one such group. This nonprofit organization has many services for patients and their families.

    The American Brain Tumor Association is another organization that can help patients find support groups in local areas.

    Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation sponsors support groups for parents of children with cancer. In some cities, the Foundation has special groups for children or teens with cancer, as well.

    Information about other programs and services for cancer patients and their families is available through the Cancer Information Service. The toll-free number is 1-800-4-CANCER.