After someone undergoes brain surgery there is bound to be some residual damage. You canâ€™t go poking around any part of the body without at least a little swelling. Brain surgery for cancer involves more than just a little poke, and the residual damage usually requires more than just time for the swelling to go down.
Simple functions may be lost, at least for a time, such as short-term memory, or the ability to remember names and faces. There could be loss of motor skills or muscle weakness, and difficulty in speaking. The patient may not be able to concentrate, have slower reaction time, and difficulty in problem solving. Life is going to be challenging, and until the brain is able to heal and form new connections that replace or circumvent the old ones it may not be easy.
Often many of these side effects can be reduced by medication, rehabilitation, and by re-learning through utilizing new memory techniques and practicing memory skills.
Our memory allows us to process tasks, organize the order in which we perform these tasks, and understand the outcome. This is the cognitive portion of our brain, which connects to our thinking, reasoning and perceptions. In the case of brain cancer, in order to return to a more â€œnormalâ€ life the patient may need to undergo â€œcognitive retraining.â€
Cognitive retaining would include restoring the original skills in the undamaged areas of the brain that may be weakened from medications, chemotherapy, brain swelling or radiation. It involves teaching these undamaged areas of the brain to compensate for the damaged areas, and to train the damaged areas to relearn as much as they can.
Retraining the brain is like building up weak muscles. Since the brain is a muscle, brain exercises can often rebuild the memory skills. This training can happen through rehabilitation training with a memory expert, by using memory tools, playing brain games, and learning mind strategies through the use of computer programs that improve the interpretation of what we see (our visual perception).Â Strategy games like “Uno” are also excellent ways to work improve cognitive skills while also improving social skills by interacting with others.
â€œThe therapy setting itself offers many opportunities to practice cognitive skills. Therapists can develop personalized tasks that require “thinking on your feet” and more closely simulate your real life situations. For example, for those who prepare meals, therapy may include using the program facility’s kitchen to practice following a simple recipe or to plan, in sequence, a more complex meal,â€ says The American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA).
Those patients who work in jobs requiring organizational skills can work on checklists for complex tasks, or practice problem-solving skills. One activity the ABTA suggests is taking the patient to a local restaurant so they can order a take out lunch, or work in a kitchen following a simple recipe. This builds up their cognitive skills by learning to follow directions and keeping track of details.
Seeking professional help from a memory trainer after a serious brain injury or brain surgery will improve your chances of getting back a normal life. The cognitive retraining a person is able to improve their memory and build up the brain muscles weakened by the disease and cures.
From the desk of Ron White
eMedicineHealth – Side Effects of Brain Cancer Treatments: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/brain_cancer/page9_em.htm#side
American Brain Tumor Association – Becoming Well Again Through…: http://www.abta.org/index.cfm?contentid=147 ; http://www.abta.org/Becoming_Well_Again_Through…/Cognitive_Retraining/199 & http://www.abta.org/siteFiles/SitePages/9346E8C11554938FFB49915D6B08FB5D.pdf
National Brain Tumor Society – How Tumors Affect the Mind,
Emotion and Personality: http://www.braintumor.org/patients-family-friends/about-brain-tumors/publications/factsheet_howtumorsaffectthemind.pdf