Brain and spinal tumours

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Rehabilitation for brain and spinal cord cancer

Rehabilitation is an important part of returning to the activities of daily living after brain and spinal cord cancer treatment. Recovery is different for each person, depending on the extent of the disease, the type of treatment and many other factors. A person with brain and spinal cord cancer may be concerned about the following:

  • physical changes
  • cognitive changes
  • speech and swallowing problems

Physical rehabilitation

Brain and spinal cord tumours and their treatments can affect a person’s normal physical abilities. A person with a brain or spinal cord tumour may experience:

  • paralysis (complete or partial)
  • muscle weakness
  • difficulty walking
  • problems with balance and coordination

Physical therapy and occupational therapy may help in the physical rehabilitation of the person recovering from a brain or spinal cord tumour.

Cognitive rehabilitation

Cognitive rehabilitation helps a person regain the mental skills of thought, reason, perception and memory. People may experience some type of cognitive problem because of their cancer, its progression or side effects of treatments like surgery or radiation therapy. Cognitive rehabilitation may help a person regain, or cope with changes in, their cognitive function.

Personality changes are a significant and distressing effect of brain tumours. Family members may feel that they have “lost” the person they once knew. The person with the brain tumour may, or may not, be aware of the differences in their personality. Counselling may help the family and the person with the brain tumour cope with and adjust to the changes.

Speech therapy

Brain tumours may affect a person’s ability to speak and swallow. Some of the problems that a person with a brain tumour may experience include:

  • slurred speech
  • stuttering
  • difficulty swallowing

A speech therapist (speech-language pathologist) can assess speech problems and provide suggestions to deal with them.


Treatment that uses physical means, such as special exercises, activities and massage.

Physiotherapy may be used to treat pain, disease or injury. It is given by a specially trained healthcare professional called a physiotherapist.

Also called physical therapy.

occupational therapy

Treatment that helps people develop, maintain or recover the ability to carry out the activities of daily living. It includes first assessing a person’s needs along with their home and work or school environments and then recommending changes or adaptive devices to help them in their daily life.

Occupational therapy may be used to help people return to their activities of daily living after cancer treatment. It is given by a trained healthcare professional called a occupational therapist.


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