how long do effects of radiation last on the brain?

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how long do effects of radiation last on the brain?

by pdhillon on Tue Mar 01, 2011 07:33 PM

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my father finished 6 weeks of radiation/chemotherapy on his brain mid november (3.5 months ago). After his treatment he had very heavy swelling in his brain for which he was put on the steroid decadron. this improved the swelling and he was taken off of the decadron. today i just found out his doctor is putting him back on the steroid due to more swelling in his brain.

i am wondering if this is normal? how long will this swelling take place in his brain? the steroids don't suit him well. he gets very irritated and loses sleep. i would greatly appreciate any input! thank you in advance.

RE: how long do effects of radiation last on the brain?

by distancerunner on Tue Mar 01, 2011 08:14 PM

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The effects of radiation on the brain vary from person to person and can be permanent and profound.

For the next several years be vary vigelent of each scan for what many raiologist pass off as merely "flairs" or "enhancements" which everyone tends to celebrate as no recurrence.

Even after your current problems have subsided, the radiation has a tendency to come back around sometimes up to a year later and hit you with a haymaker and knock you down to the canvass...

Like it did my wife.

Unlike your problem, she ws fine through radiation therapy.

10 months later she was one day laughing and smiling and the next day couldn't walk, talk or think straight.

We had celebrated 10 months worth of scans with only those "flairs" and "enhancements and had breathed sighs of relief that it was not recurrence.

Now, my wife calls juice, soup and we have not had a real conversation since January.

Avastin did much to help the mobility part, but talking on the phone with her is like talking to a 5 year old kid.

It's only a "flair" from treatment..nothing to worry about ...just a slight enhancement in the corpus collosum....no recurrence seen....hooray!

 

Not.

RE: how long do effects of radiation last on the brain?

by Lorre_G on Wed Mar 02, 2011 04:09 PM

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Help with Side Effects - Radiation Therapy

There are several types of radiation therapy. Side-effects depend on the type of radiation you receive and the total dosage. Your physician and nurse can tell you which ones you are likely to experience. The following are suggestions for living with some of the potential side-effects of conventional radiation therapy.

Hair loss

Hair loss will probably be the first side-effect you experience. It occurs about two weeks after you begin radiation therapy. Hair loss is usually over the area being treated, but some people lose all of their hair. Hair loss is sudden, and it usually falls out in clumps over a short period of time. This can be very upsetting unless you are prepared for it. Hair loss is usually temporary your radiation oncologist can advise you about this. Your hair will begin to grow back within weeks to months following therapy, but the new growth might not be the same texture or color as your original hair. Permanent hair loss over the area being treated can occur with higher doses of radiation.

Management of hair loss

To minimize hair loss, cut your hair short before you begin treatment. This reduces the weight on the hair shaft. Satin pillowcases help lessen tangling while sleeping. Use an infant comb and brush set when your hair begins to grow back. Don't over shampoo your hair. Use a mild shampoo, such as a baby shampoo. Don't use abusive products on your hair, such as hot rollers, curling irons, hair sprays or dyes.

Consider purchasing a wig, or buy some scarves, turbans or caps before starting radiation. You might be able to purchase a wig from your own hair stylist. Wigs can also be made from your own hair. Hair pieces and wigs might be tax-deductible or covered by your insurance. Get a prescription for a "cranial prosthesis" (wig) from your physician. Recently, specialty stores have been established to help persons undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. These stores offer a variety of items and devices to help make treatments easier to live with. Ask your nurse, social worker or local cancer society representative if they can refer you to a store in your area.

Skin irritation

During radiation, the skin in the area being treated can become reddened, flaky and itchy. Don't try to treat these problems by yourself. Notify your physician immediately of the irritation.

Management of skin irritation

There are several things you can do to try to prevent this side-effect. Use a mild shampoo when you wash your hair and limit your hair washing to two or three times a week at most. Don't use abrasive hair treatments, such as hot rollers, conditioners, hair sprays or dyes. Don't use anything on your scalp unless your doctor approves it. Lotions and oils may increase the irritation. Corn starch can be used to decrease itching, if approved by your physician.

Stay out of the sun as much as possible and wear a hat or scarf when you are outside. Don't use hot water bottles, icepacks or heating pads on your scalp. Don't use tape, gauze or bandages on your scalp unless your physician tells you it's okay to do so.

Hearing problems

In addition to skin irritation, you might have some temporary hearing difficulties. This can be due to hardening of the wax in your ears if your ears are in or near the area being radiated. Notify your physician if you experience a decrease in your hearing.

Nausea or vomiting

Nausea caused by radiation therapy to the brain isn't very common, but it can occur following a treatment session.

Management of nausea and vomiting

If you experience nausea and/or vomiting after a treatment session, your doctor might prescribe a medication called an antiemetic. These are generally very effective at minimizing or controlling nausea. Antiemetics can also be used for "anticipatory nausea" if you feel sick to your stomach prior to treatment.

Relaxation, imagery and biofeedback are techniques that can be used with or without anti-emetics, to help you control this side-effect. Ask your physician or nurse where you can learn about these methods.

Additional suggestions:

Relax. Don't assume you'll be sick.

Avoid eating for a few hours before treatment, if you experience nausea following the sessions.

Stay away from fatty or spicy foods, sweets and strong smelling foods.

Ice chips, ginger ale, unsalted pretzels, plain crackers, and/or cool, bland foods can help combat nausea.

Drink plenty of water.

Plan to eat your meals when the nausea is the least troublesome.

Changes in appetite

Your appetite may increase or decrease during the course of treatment. Some people lose weight and continue to lose weight for several weeks after finishing their treatments. Others gain weight, usually due to the corticosteroids they are taking.

Management of appetite changes

Whether your appetite has increased or decreased, it is important to eat a balanced diet. Small frequent meals may be easier for you. Eat when you're hungry rather than at set mealtimes.

If you are losing weight, try adding nutritional supplements to milk shakes or malts. Eat what appeals to you. Have snacks handy to nibble on throughout the day. Liquids may be more tempting than solids.

Weight gain due to steroids is generally unavoidable. Watch what you eat. Nibble on healthy foods such as celery or carrots. Choose lower calorie, lower fat foods, such as a chicken breast instead of hamburger. Most people lose weight once they no longer need to take steroids.

Drowsiness and fatigue

Most people experience some degree of fatigue and drowsiness during radiation therapy. The severity of these symptoms depends on the state of your health before the treatment. However, alert your family: if your drowsiness is of sudden onset or is accompanied by confusion, have someone call your doctor immediately. If they are unable to awaken you, call for emergency help.

Decreased sex drive (libido)

Desire for sexual activity might be lowered because your hormone levels are affected, because you are stressed, or because you are just too tired.

Management of decreased sex drive

Share your thoughts with your partner. Explain that this is a side-effect of treatment, not a change in your feelings, and that your sexual desires will likely return to normal once treatment ends. Now is a time for closeness: hold hands spend quiet time together. If you or your partner is concerned, speak to a counselor or social worker.

Neurologic (brain-related) effects

Potential side-effects of radiation therapy are classified into three groups: acute, early delayed (also called sub-acute), and late.

Acute Reactions

Acute reactions occur during or immediately after radiation is finished. These reactions are caused by radiation- induced brain swelling (edema).

Symptoms can mimic the symptoms of your brain tumor, like speech problems or muscle weakness or those of increased intracranial pressure, such as headache, nausea, or double vision.

Management of acute reactions

Acute reactions are temporary and are usually relieved by corticosteroids such as dexamethasone. Often, steroids are prescribed to be taken during the entire treatment so that acute side-effects are avoided or minimized. The steroid dose is gradually reduced and discontinued when treatment is completed.

Early Delayed (Sub Acute) Reactions

This group of reactions occurs a few weeks to a few months after completion of therapy, most commonly between one and three months. Symptoms include loss of appetite, sleepiness, lack of energy, as well as an increase in pre-existing neurologic symptoms.

Some of these reactions are thought to be due to a temporary disruption of myelin formation (demyelination). Myelin is a substance that insulates the nerves and speeds up nerve impulses. The symptoms are usually temporary lasting about six weeks, the length of time it takes for myelin to repair itself. In some cases, however, recovery may take several months.

Since the brain lacks an effective lymph system, dead tumor cells are cleared away very slowly. A rapid build-up of dead cells can lead to swelling which might produce a temporary increase of symptoms. CT scans taken shortly after treatment might show changes that are difficult to distinguish from tumor growth. Repeat CT or MRI scans are often necessary to clarify the cause of the symptoms.

Management of early delayed reactions

Notify your radiation oncologist or your primary doctor if you notice any of the symptoms listed. Early delayed reactions are usually treated with steroids and most of these reactions are self-limiting, going away with minimal treatment. However, they can become life-threatening if they aren't treated properly. It is very important for you to tell your doctor if you have any of these reactions so that he/she can properly monitor and treat you.

Leukoencephalopathy

is a type of early delayed reaction affecting the white matter (mylenated tissue) of the brain. It can occur when dead tumor cells, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy drugs irritate the white matter. The severity of the symptoms increases with the amount of damage.

Leukoencephalopathy may be reversible and is usually treated with steroids. Some researchers are attempting to treat this effect with hyperoxygenation therapy in the hope that increasing the amounts of oxygen in the brain will aid in healing brain cells which may not be as seriously damaged as others.

Late Reactions

These reactions are due to changes in the white matter and death of brain tissue caused by radiation-damaged blood vessels. Symptoms can occur months to years after therapy is completed. These long-term effects are permanent and can be progressive. Symptoms vary from mild to severe and include: decreased intellect, memory impairment, confusion, personality changes, and alteration of the normal function of the area irradiated.

It is sometimes difficult to diagnose late delayed reactions. CT and MRI scans are often unable to distinguish between new tumor growth and radiation changes. PET scanning might be helpful, but is not totally accurate. A biopsy of the area may be the only way to determine whether you have radiation changes to your brain or new tumor growth.

Management of late delayed reactions

Mild reactions may be treated with steroids. Severe reactions such as tumor necrosis may require surgery to remove the dead tissue. Some researchers are investigating the possible benefits of hyperoxgenation therapy in the hope that increasing the amounts of oxygen in the brain will aid in healing brain cells which may not be a seriously damaged as others. Still other researchers have attempted to treat the brain with blood thinners, such as heparin, but this has not proven successful.

The need for a second surgery to remove necrotic tissue is common in patients who receive very high doses of radiation, such as that used during interstitial radiation or radiosurgery. Research into preventing this type of injury is underway.

Other reactions

Oncogenesis, the development of another tumor, is now a recognized, although rare, possible long-term side-effect of radiation.

Radiation therapy might also cause pituitary-hypothalamic dysfunction (changes in normal hormone levels) leading to problems with your thyroid, sugar metabolism, fertility, or ability to process water.

Because their brains are still developing, children are extremely susceptible to the side-effects of radiation. Treatment with radiation is delayed as long as possible, or at least until a child is three years old.

Recent research has focused on the long-term effects of radiation in children. These include physical consequences, and psychological, social and educational effects as well. Information about this research can be obtained through medical literature searches, such as Medline.

RE: how long do effects of radiation last on the brain?

by TrustinginGod on Fri Mar 18, 2011 04:38 AM

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On Mar 01, 2011 8:14 PM distancerunner wrote:

The effects of radiation on the brain vary from person to person and can be permanent and profound.

For the next several years be vary vigelent of each scan for what many raiologist pass off as merely "flairs" or "enhancements" which everyone tends to celebrate as no recurrence.

Even after your current problems have subsided, the radiation has a tendency to come back around sometimes up to a year later and hit you with a haymaker and knock you down to the canvass...

Like it did my wife.

Unlike your problem, she ws fine through radiation therapy.

10 months later she was one day laughing and smiling and the next day couldn't walk, talk or think straight.

We had celebrated 10 months worth of scans with only those "flairs" and "enhancements and had breathed sighs of relief that it was not recurrence.

Now, my wife calls juice, soup and we have not had a real conversation since January.

Avastin did much to help the mobility part, but talking on the phone with her is like talking to a 5 year old kid.

It's only a "flair" from treatment..nothing to worry about ...just a slight enhancement in the corpus collosum....no recurrence seen....hooray!

 

Not.

So am I not being realistic here????? My husband seems to be doing fine. He is on his month 6 of 5/23 chemo. He is working,he has to travel on his job,everything....should I be watching for some type of sympton. His tumor was removed July 15,radiation and chemo followed for 6 weeks. Grade 3. They say no recurrence when we go for his MRI's every 2 months as well. Now I am worried. What should I watch for,he seems to be doing so well.
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