6 posts tagged “cancer treatments”

Life after lung cancer surgery: 5 recovery tips from patients

Posted 2 weeks ago by

PatientsLikeMe members have talked in the forums about what it’s like to recover from lung cancer surgery – and what most doctors don’t tell you. We’ve gathered some helpful post-surgery hints members have shared. (Hint: Join PatientsLikeMe for access to the Lung Cancer Forum.)

Many members have mentioned that the side effects of a lobectomy or other lung surgery can be more intense than they expected. “I had a right upper lobectomy 2 years ago – still have lots of pain and numbness – bras suck!” one member says.

“The surgeon wasn’t very informative and my doctor, bless his heart, hasn’t ever had a patient like me so doesn’t really know what’s normal and what’s not,” says another member. “I’m very thankful for this site, I have learned a lot from it.”

What can help?

  • Finding the right bra. Wear a looser sports bra, an old bra (without underwire) or a stretchy camisole with soft cups, to give some breast support but nothing too restrictive.
  • Setting yourself up for sleep. Stomach sleepers will need to get used to sleeping on their back or (maybe) side. Sleeping in a recliner, or using pillows or foam wedges to find a decent position in bed, can help you catch some Zzzs.
  • Treating your incision with care. Cold or rainy weather, and even chilly air-conditioning, can make scars extra sensitive, so try to stay warm and dry. One member advises applying vitamin E and unscented skin cream to help with healing.
  • Managing your pain. Members report using prescribed pain meds, Lidocaine patches, pain-relief ointment (like Icy Hot) and heating pads to deal with some of the pain.
  • Taking it easy. Go “very slow in the beginning,” says one member. “Resting on your back a lot, taking short and slow walks, not twisting the body, not carrying (heavy) things, not running, taking the stairs slowly… With these things, I was OK eight months after my operation. But I’m still very careful…”

Another word to the wise? Ask your doctor right away about any symptoms you’re not sure are normal, such as breathing issues, coughing or bleeding.

On PatientsLikeMe, more than 50 people have reported having surgery as part of their lung cancer treatmentLung lobectomy is the most commonly reported type of surgery, followed by pneumonectomy and lung wedge resection (click on these links to see treatment reports — logged-in members have access to more information).

Also, check out our recent write-up on some newer and less invasive procedures for lung cancer.

Have you had lung cancer surgery or will you be undergoing this procedure soon? Join our patient community or log in to see what else members have shared about recovering from lung cancer surgery.

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“Chemo brain”: 3 surprising findings from recent research

Posted 3 months 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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