CancerConnect News: Patients who survive head and neck cancer may be more likely to experience declines in mental function according to the results of a recent study.
The findings are drawn from cognitive assessments for 80 survivors of head and neck cancer compared to a control group of 40 otherwise similar people who didn’t have these malignancies. Two years after cancer treatment, 38 percent of the survivors had impaired cognitive functioning, but nobody in the control group did.
The results of the study clearly suggest that a substantial minority of patients who are treated for head and neck cancer will be at risk of having deficits in several areas of cognitive function, such as being able to concentrate and remember things.
Previous research has linked radiation and chemotherapy to cognitive deficits that can develop and progress many years after treatment in a variety of cancer types – often referred to as “chemo brain” Symptoms vary but include things like poor focus or memory. Learn more about “chemo brain”
In addition to chemotherapy treatment radiation might also have an effect on cognition and overall mental function.
For the current study, researchers wanted to see how cognitive function might change over time in patients with head and neck cancer who had both chemo and radiation. To determine the impact cognitive assessments were performed, once prior to treatment and then again 6, 12 and 24 months later.
The study found that when compared to the people without cancer, the head and neck cancer survivors cognitive function declined over time in several different areas, including concentration, verbal memory, and executive function.
Patients and families need to be prepared for the possibility that cognitive problems can develop and linger for years.
Reference: bit.ly/2nZNaXF JAMA Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, online November 22, 2017.
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