5 posts tagged “cancer treatments”

“Chemo brain”: 3 surprising findings from recent research

Posted 4 weeks ago by

“Chemo brain” — the term for cognitive problems associated with chemotherapy treatment — appears to be very common, but doctors only started paying attention to it in the late 1990s.

2012 study that finally helped elevate chemo brain as a serious and widespread issue estimated that up to 75% of breast cancer survivors experience “cognitive deficits—problems with attention, concentration, planning, and working memory—from 6 months to 20 years after receiving chemotherapy.” Read on to learn some of the surprising findings from recent research on chemo brain.

1. Treatments beyond chemotherapy may cause chemo brain. “From many sources of data, we now know patients experience impairments not just after chemo, but after surgery, radiation, hormonal therapy,” and other treatments, oncologist Patricia Ganz, M.D., tells the National Cancer Institute. Immunotherapy may also cause cognitive dysfunction, according to MD Anderson Cancer Center.

2. Cancer itself may cause some chemo brain. A 2015 study found that people with lung cancer have mental impairments and changes in their brain even before treatment. For example, patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) had “verbal memory deficits” (e.g., trouble remembering words) and damage to the brain’s white matter (which some consider “the subway of the brain”). A 2017 animal study also showed that cancer itself can impact the brain, possibly because the body’s response to cancer can cause inflammation to the brain.

3. Chemo brain is often so subtle that standard tests can’t detect it. Just last month (June 2018), researchers issued a call for a new clinical approach to chemo brain, as reported in the Los Angeles Times. One of the main problems? Experts have mainly tried to assess chemo brain using neurological tests geared toward those with severe brain injuries, Alzheimer’s disease or stroke. But tests like those are “unlikely to detect, measure or explain the often subtle impairments that, for many cancer survivors, make it hard to return to a mentally demanding job, continue driving or lay plans for the future,” The Times notes.

Can anything help with chemo brain symptoms?

“Stimulants or brain training may help some patients,” the team at MD Anderson says. “Cognitive strategies or healthy lifestyle changes, like improved sleep quality and exercise, can also help.” Talk with your care team and ask for a referral to a neuropsychology specialist. (If you’ve tried any treatments or therapies for cognitive symptoms, please make a comment below.)

Join PatientsLikeMe today to find dozens of conversations about chemo brain and see the most commonly reported side effects of chemotherapy.

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CyberKnife, VATS + other surgical and less invasive treatments for lung cancer

Posted 2 months ago by

Surgery is among the most common treatments for people with lung cancer. Let’s take a closer look at various types of surgery for lung cancer, as well as emerging non-surgical and minimally invasive treatments, like CyberKnife or “SBRT,” cryosurgery and “VATS.” Huh? Read on… we’ll explain.

Common types of lung cancer surgery

Before we explore some of the newer and less invasive treatments, let’s review the most common surgical treatments for lung cancer these days. These are the most frequently reported treatments on PatientsLikeMe (to access the links below, join the community or login):

  • Lung lobectomy – In this procedure, a surgeon removes the entire lobe of the lung that contains a tumor. The right lung has 3 lobes, and the left lung has 2 lobes. See members’ evaluations of this treatment here.
  • Lung wedge resection – This procedure involves removing a small, wedge-shaped portion of the lung (containing cancer), along with a certain amount of healthy tissue that surrounds the area. See treatment evaluations here.
  • Pneumonectomy – Also called “radical pneumonectomy,” this means surgically removing an entire lung. Read treatment reports here.
  • Lung segment resection – This procedure usually removes more than a wedge resection would but not the entire lobe of the lung. See treatment reports here.

Check out additional treatment evaluations for other specific treatments such as bronchial sleeve lobectomy and lobectomies by location in the body (see the “See also”section for details on upper, middle, lower, left and right lung lobectomies). Also, see forum discussions about lung cancer surgery and tips for recovering from surgery.

VATS, CyberKnife and cryosurgery

Now, let’s explore some of the newer and lesser-known or less invasive treatments. Keep in mind, not everyone is a candidate for these procedures (Cleveland Clinic outlines some reasons why — such as extensive spreading of cancer or prior chemotherapy treatment), so talk with your physician(s) and consider seeking a second opinion to find the treatments that will work best for you.

  • VATS – This stands for “video-assisted thorascopic surgery,” and some forms of it may also be “robotic-assisted.” Most lung cancer surgeries involve a thoracotomy (usually a 10-inch surgical incision). But VATS is like a laparoscopy for the lungs — a minimally invasive procedure where the surgeon uses tiny instruments and a fiber-optic video camera threaded through multiple half-inch incisions, rather than one large incision. Surgeons are increasingly using VATS whenever possible, but rarely for pneumonectomy or some types of resections that require a larger incision, Everyday Health reports.
  • Cryosurgery – This procedure involves inserting a bronchoscope through the trachea and into the lungs, and then using a probe to freeze tumor tissue and remove it. Patients with very advanced disease or poor lung function may be a candidate for this, if doctors determine they’re not a good fit for surgery.
  • CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery, or “SBRT” – Contrary to the sounds of something with “knife” and “surgery” in the name, CyberKnife treatment is not actually surgery. This is a type of radiation therapy that may be an alternative to surgery. The general name for this procedure is stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), and CyberKnife is a brand name of the technology that may be used (see this video for some more info).
  • During SBRT or CyberKnife treatment, highly focused beams to deliver radiation to a pinpointed area, with minimal damage to surrounding healthy tissue. A few PatientsLikeMe members have evaluated this treatment and discussed it in the forum. Some researchers say that SBRT is “a well-established treatment option for early stage non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tumors < 5 cm.”

One member with adenocarcinoma says she had five treatment sessions with SBRT. “The five treatments were given on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and on Monday, Wednesday of the following week. I had absolutely no problems with the radiation. The only minor problem was laying in a form that was molded to your body with your arms extended above your head for about 45 minutes.”

Have you had any of these procedures or do you have any questions about upcoming treatments? Join PatientsLikeMe to connect with and learn from other patients with lung cancer.

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