Living with a brain or spinal cord tumour
A brain or spinal cord tumour and its treatment can change how the mind and body work. You or your family members may notice changes in how you speak and your personality, memory, movement, balance or coordination.
Learn more about:
- Types of change you will experience
- Types of rehabilitation
- Managing seizures
Types of change you will experience
The types of changes you experience will depend on the part of the brain affected by the tumour and what treatment you have had. If you or your family feel like you are behaving differently, talk to your doctor, nurse or cancer care coordinator.
Rehabilitation is treatment designed to help people recover from injury or disease. After treatment for a brain or spinal cord tumour, most people will have a rehabilitation assessment to identify their needs and ways to manage them. A range of therapies can help restore your previous abilities or help you adjust to any changes.
The changes may be difficult to cope with emotionally, and you might find that your self-esteem and your relationships 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.
Types of rehabilitation
A range of therapies can support you in your recovery. These may be available at your cancer treatment centre, or through a rehabilitation specialist at a rehabilitation hospital.
You may also be referred to allied health professionals (e.g. physiotherapist, occupational therapist) in private practice. Ask to see a therapist experienced in working with people after treatment for brain or spinal cord tumours.
PhysiotherapyYour physical abilities may be affected. Physiotherapy can help you learn how to move more easily, develop muscle strength and improve balance.
Moving and strengthening your muscles can reduce tiredness or weakness related to 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.
A neurophysiotherapist specialises in treating physical changes caused by damage to the central nervous system.
Cognitive rehabilitationYour memory, language skills, thinking, 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, assistive technology such as diaries and reminder alerts, and word puzzles.
ExerciseA physiotherapist or an exercise physiologist can give you advice on how to increase physical activity and exercise safely to improve circulation and mobility, reduce swelling, and increase your heart and lung fitness. They will also help you explore ways to return to activities you previously enjoyed.
To find a physiotherapist, visit Find a physio today and to find an accredited exercise physiologist, visit ESSA Find an Accredited Exercise Professional Search.
Speech therapyYour ability to talk may be affected. A speech pathologist could help restore speech. Speech pathologists also work with people who have difficulty swallowing food and drink (dysphagia). To find a certified practising speech pathologist, visit Speech Pathology Australia.
SightYou may lose some or all of your 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 visit Vision Australia.
Occupational therapyIf treatment has made it harder to perform everyday personal activities (e.g. showering, dressing, preparing a meal), an occupational therapist can help. A range of strategies and aids can help you manage fatigue and improve or maintain your independence.
To find an occupational therapist, visit Occupational Therapy Australia.
Financial support for people with disabilities
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provides Australians aged under 65 who have a permanent and significant disability with funding for support and services. The NDIS may be able to help a person whose everyday activities have been impacted by a brain tumour. For more information, talk with your rehabilitation team, call 1800 800 110 or visit National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).
If your GP refers you to a rehabilitation specialist as part of a GP Management Plan or Team Care Arrangement, you may be eligible for a Medicare for up to five visits each year.
I was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma that couldn’t be operated on, so I had radiation therapy and chemotherapy. I needed to stop work and I couldn’t drive. I found it all mentally draining.John
Podcast: How to Help Someone with Cancer
A/Prof Lindy Jeffree, Neurosurgeon, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Emma Daly, Neuro-oncology Clinical Nurse Consultant, Cabrini Health, VIC; A/Prof Andrew Davidson, Neurosurgeon, Victorian Gamma Knife Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Department of Neurosurgery, Royal Melbourne Hospital, VIC; Beth Doggett, Consumer; Kate Fernandez, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Melissa Harrison, Allied Health Manager and Senior Neurological Physiotherapist, Advance Rehab Centre, NSW; A/Prof Rosemary Harrup, Director, Cancer and Blood Services, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; A/Prof Eng-Siew Koh, Radiation Oncologist, Liverpool Cancer Therapy Centre, Liverpool Hospital and University of New South Wales, NSW; Andy Stokes, Consumer.
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