Many people experience changes in the way their body functions as a result of a brain or spinal cord tumour, or treatment for these tumours. You or your family members may notice changes in your speech, personality, memory, movement, balance and coordination. If you notice some differences in behaviour, talk to your doctor, nurse or care coordinator.
Emotionally, these changes may be difficult to cope with. You might find that your self esteem and your relationships, especially with those close to you, are affected. Talking to a counsellor or someone who has had a similar experience may help. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 to see what support is available close to you.
The brain can sometimes heal itself after treatment, but this can be a slow process. Many patients require some rehabilitation to help restore their abilities or manage changes. The type of therapy you have depends on your needs, choices and what is available.
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A range of therapies can support you in your recovery. These may be available at your cancer treatment centre, or you may be referred to a rehabilitation specialist for treatment through a rehabilitation hospital or service team. You may also be referred to individual allied health professionals (e.g. physiotherapists) in private practice.
In some cases, physiotherapy can help you learn how to move more easily. It can also help you to develop muscle strength and balance. Moving and strengthening your muscles can reduce tiredness or weakness related to cancer treatment. If you can’t move easily, you may be able to learn techniques, such as using a walking stick, so you can become more independent.
Your memory, language skills, concentration, or planning and problem-solving skills (executive function) may be affected. A neuropsychologist, speech pathologist or occupational therapist can help improve these cognitive skills using memory activities, speech therapy, diaries and language puzzles.
A physiotherapist or an exercise physiologist can give you advice on how to exercise safely and stimulate parts of your body to improve circulation and reduce swelling.
If your ability to talk has been affected, a speech pathologist may be able to help. Speech pathologists also work with people who have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).
Help with vision impairment
Some people may lose some or all of their sight as a result of a brain tumour or surgery. Vision Australia can help people learn how to live independently. Call 1300 84 74 66 or go to Vision Australia.
Some people find the tumour or its treatment affects their ability to perform everyday personal activities (e.g. showering, dressing, preparing a meal). An occupational therapist can help you to return to the activities that are important to you. A range of strategies and aids can help you manage fatigue and improve or maintain your independence.
Video: Rehabilitation after treatment
This video looks at common challenges facing people with brain cancer after treatment, such as the types of rehabilitation, brain tumours and driving, and returning to work.