Brain and Spine Tumor Center
Lifespan Cancer Institute

Neurological Complications of Cancer

Neurological complications involving both the central and peripheral nervous system—such as stroke, seizure, headache, confusion, myelopathy, myopathy, neuropathy, and others—may result from surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy in the treatment of systemic cancer. Neurologic problems are relatively common in patients with systemic cancers, and the frequency of these complications can increase due to aggressive therapies and prolonged treatment.

A Team Approach to Treat the Neurological Complications of Cancer

These complications can be debilitating and difficult to diagnose. Prompt recognition and treatment of these problems can significantly improve patient outcomes. At the Lifespan Cancer Institute, we have the only team of experts and programs in the state providing coordinated care and support for managing the symptoms of cancer patients.

The neuro-oncology team helps determine the cause of neurologic problems and assists in their treatment, in collaboration with other programs that care for patients with neurological conditions:

  • The Neuro-intensive Care Unit provides comprehensive multidisciplinary care for patients with life-threatening neurological illnesses and injuries. Rhode Island Hospital is the only hospital in the state to have a critical care service dedicated to the care of neurological patients, and the neurointensivist works closely with neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists, neurologists, neuroradiologists, emergency medicine physicians, and other specialists.
  • The Neuropsychology Program offers neuropsychological evaluation of memory and other cognitive functions on both an inpatient and outpatient basis. Services include comprehensive memory and cognitive assessment and treatment recommendations for known or suspected neurologic or neuropsychiatric disorders.
  • The Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center is a comprehensive diagnostic and treatment center for patients with memory disorders and is the largest memory assessment program in Rhode Island. The center’s neurologists are memory disorder specialists who thoroughly evaluate each patient, including a careful review of the patient’s medical history, a physical examination, and neuropsychological evaluation of mental functions that may include neuroimaging and other laboratory tests.
  • The Division of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Neurology evaluates and treats individuals with brain-behavior disorders. Services include comprehensive memory and cognitive assessment and treatment for known or suspected neurologic or neuropsychiatric disorders, including neurocognitive and behavioral impairments secondary to medical illness. Services also include cognitive rehabilitation and counseling/education for patients and their families.
  • To recover from or manage the effects of brain or central nervous system disease, the patient will often need ongoing rehabilitative therapy that may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.

The goal of treatment is to focus on the patient’s complete medical condition and offer accessible care that improves quality of life.

Learn more about the management of side effects at the Brain and Tumor Center