Steroids, prescribed to reduce swelling, headaches or nausea, can cause mood disturbances, problems with attention/concentration and memory impairment.
They can, however,
improve cognitive problems by reducing the swelling or retention of fluid (oedema), thereby reducing the pressure on the brain.
Occasionally, if given high doses whilst in hospital, some people experience 'steroid-induced psychosis'.
These effects are usually temporary whilst taking the steroid, but if you experience any of these symptoms, please discuss it with your health team
AEDs (Anti-Epileptic Drugs) can cause impaired memory, impaired attention and effects on executive functioning, such as slowness in thinking.
Discuss any side-effects with your health team, as they can change you to other AEDs.
Over the counter medicines i.e. ones you can buy without a prescription, can affect cognitive functioning. Talk to your health team about any possible side-effects.
Seizures can cause memory difficulties, slower processing speeds and problems with attention and executive functioning.
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Fatigue is a common side-effect of the stress of diagnosis and future uncertainty, and of treatments or medications. Fatigue is well-known to cause issues with memory, attention/concentration, planning and organising.
People often feel anxious and depressed after a brain tumour diagnosis. Changes in your personal, social and/or professional life can add to these feelings. These reactions and associated mood changes often negatively affect cognitive functions, such as motivation, attention/concentration and
If you are not eating well, cognitive effects can become worse. Eating well can combat fatigue and make your body more able to cope with the side-effects of treatment.
Alcohol has a general 'depressive' effect on brain activity, leading to slowness of thinking and reaction times, impaired reasoning and memory problems.
While some cognitive effects may be long-term, others will be temporary or may be able to be lessened by 'cognitive rehabilitation' therapies.
Are there any treatments available for cognitive impairment?
There is no simple 'cure' for cognitive impairment, but your health team can work with you, as they will be familiar with your specific diagnosis and circumstances, to help improve your cognitive functioning.
If you think you, or a loved one, may be suffering from some form of cognitive impairment, you can ask to be referred to a neuropsychologist for an assessment.
What can I do to cope with cognitive difficulties?
It is not unusual to feel frustrated, defensive or embarrassed about the changes in some of your abilities. Try some of the general coping strategies below, which other people have found useful for day-to-day living.
General coping strategies
- Plan and make lists
- Get into a routine
- Break tasks down into small chunks and only do one thing at a time
- Use prompts e.g. a timer when cooking, or pill reminder for medication
- Make receiving information easier
e.g. ask people to keep things simple, write it down and repeat it back to them; and try to remove background noise
- Use memory aids/techniques
e.g. notebook/iPad/mobile, notepads around the house, alarms, diaries, photos of tasks or stages to work through
- Talk to others about how you are feeling and the difficulties you are experiencing so they can support you
- Do something relaxing each day – it can improve concentration.
- Get enough rest – plan time for a nap or take a break if you are tired
- Try to achieve a regular sleep pattern
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Try to manage your stress
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a brain tumour, we offer a range of support.
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