Brain trouble often persists after brain cancer

Survivors of childhood brain tumors often suffer lasting problems with memory and other “cognitive” functions, results of a study indicate.

The study also found lower levels of education, employment and income in adult survivors of childhood brain tumors compared with their siblings and survivors of other types of cancer.

“The take-home message,” Dr. Leah Ellenberg of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles told Reuters Health, “is that these children and their families require intervention and support throughout their lives, not just when they are children/adolescents.”

The researchers studied 802 survivors of malignant brain tumors (“CNS” cancers) and 5,937 survivors of non-CNS cancers such as leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, and bone tumors, as well as 382 siblings of CNS cancer survivors. The CNS cancer survivors were at least 16 years from their diagnosis.

“Briefly, the study showed that as adults, survivors of childhood malignant brain tumors report more trouble with the ability to efficiently perform tasks and with memory than survivors of other childhood cancers or sibling controls,” Ellenberg said.

“The ones who report these problems also show difficulty with important adult outcomes, showing less education, less full time employment, lower household income and fewer marriages,” she said.

CNS malignancy survivors most at risk were those who had treatment with cranial radiation, medical complications and hearing deficits, the researchers report in the latest issue of the journal Neuropsychology.

“It will be important,” the researchers note in their report, “to investigate the benefits of early and consistent use of compensatory strategies, including assistive technology, transitional facilities to promote independent living, and job placement and coaching, to enhance functional outcomes.”

SOURCE: Neuropsychology, November 2009.

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