Double vision, other symptoms could signal spread of cancer
People with several common cancers have a one-in-four chance of the disease spreading to the brain.
That’s a hard fact to accept, but the outlook for people with brain metastases has improved so much that it’s worth knowing sooner rather than later if the cancer has spread, says Gene H. Barnett, MD, MBA, Director of the Rose Ella Burkhardt Brain Tumor and Neuro-Oncology Center in Cleveland Clinic’s Neurological Institute.
“With early diagnosis, treatments today — advanced surgical and targeted radiation techniques and some drug therapies — are typically quite good at stopping or controlling brain metastases,” says Dr. Barnett, who holds the Rose Ella Burkhardt Chair in Neurosurgery.
That’s why Cleveland Clinic and the North (Ohio) Region of the American Cancer Society joined forces to raise awareness through an educational campaign called “B-Aware.”
Know the symptoms and talk to your oncologist about any abnormal changes (particularly if progressive), including:
- Vision changes, such as double vision or partial blindness
- Headaches, possibly with nausea
- Numbness or tingling in part of the body
- Paralysis or difficulty moving any part of the body
- Inability to walk
- Difficulties with balance and an increased incidence of falls
- Difficulty speaking, including slurring words or incoherent speech
- Problems with mental acuity, such as not being able to read or tell time
- Seizure or convulsions
Patients need to know about risk, symptoms and treatment, says Dr. Barnett. If you had lung cancer, and now you have neurological symptoms (such as tripping over your own feet) that seem to be getting worse, don’t brush it off, he says. “With control of systemic disease, it is not uncommon to see patients survive two, five, and even 10 years.”
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