Cancer is a complex disease that can have significant impacts on various systems and functions of the body. In some cases, cancer or its treatment may trigger neurological complications that can range from subtle to severe.
Types of neurological complications
Neurological complications stem from the body’s nervous system—the intricate network of nerves and cells that coordinates important sensory information and actions throughout the body. This system can be divided into the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system, which encompasses the nerves and ganglia outside of the brain and spinal cord.
Direct neurological complications of cancer
Direct neurological complications result from cancer that originates in the brain, spinal cord or peripheral nervous system. They may also occur as a result of cancer that originates elsewhere in the body and travels (metastases) to components of the nervous system.
Direct neurological complications of cancer can vary considerably, but may include:
- Changes in personality
- Memory loss
- Changes in hearing, smell, vision or taste
- Muscle weakness
- Reduced coordination
- Numbness and tingling sensations
- Sleeping problems
- Drowsiness and lethargy
Indirect neurological complications of cancer
Indirect complications are symptoms caused by cancer outside of the nervous system or cancer treatment. Examples of indirect neurological complications of cancer include:
- Paraneoplastic syndromes that may occur when cancer-fighting components of the immune system also impact the nervous system
- Pain, numbness or weakness in the hands and feet resulting from chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy
- Ischemic stroke, which may occur when cancer or its treatment causes blood clotting disorders or infections
- A wide variety of syndromes caused from immunotherapies.
Moffitt’s Neuro-Oncology Program
It takes a team to help patients achieve the best possible outcome and quality of life. That’s why Moffitt features a Neuro-Oncology Program with experts who collaborate to assist individuals with direct and indirect neurological complications of cancer. Working alongside physicians from other cancer programs as necessary, our team includes:
- Neurosurgical and medical oncologists
- Personalized medicine specialists
Moffitt also has compassionate supportive care professionals who help our patients navigate the unique emotional and physical challenges that cancer can bring. Our supportive care and neuro-oncology services are provided in the same location to help ensure a seamless treatment experience for our patients.
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Peter Forsyth, Chair, Department of Neuro-Oncology
To learn more about our approach to treating the neurological complications of cancer, contact Moffitt by completing a new patient registration form online or by calling 1-888-663-3488. Virtual visits appointments are also available.