Radiation Therapy Saves Kids with Brain Cancer– But How Does it Affect Their Memory?

Cancer treatment is a delicate process to say the least. Radiation and chemotherapy, though often effective, are not easy on patients. This is especially true for children. According to a report on WebMD, new research shows that radiation therapy in childhood cases of brain cancer may result in problems with memory. Keep reading to learn more or follow the original story here for more information.

Childhood Brain Cancers

Brain or spinal cord cancers occur as masses of accumulated abnormal cells. These tumors, found inside the skull or spinal column are cells that have grown beyond normal limits. Cancers have a variety of names, and symptoms depending on the area of the body they are affecting. About 4000 central nervous system tumors are diagnosed in children each year. Tumors starting in the brain are known as primary brain tumors while those which spread from other parts of the body are known as secondary or metastatic brain tumors.

Click here to learn more about brain cancers in children.

It’s Personal

Melanie Sekeres works as an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor. She authored the study regarding radiation and memory. Citing previous research, Sekeres says there were already known risks associated with radiation therapy and short-term memory. Short-term memory loss and difficulties in school, she says, were both acknowledged. The more recent research she worked on, however, suggests that radiation can leave young patients struggling with memories of “recent personal events.” In other words, it may prevent them from forming memories about themselves and the world around them.

Sekeres and her team of researchers suspect that the radiation may interfere with the development of nerve cells. Specifically, radiation may impede nerve cell growth in the hippocampus.

Researching Recall

During their study, researchers investigated the memories of 13 child cancer patients. They then compared this group with nine healthy children. Each cancer patient had received surgical treatment, radiation, and chemotherapy. Tests showed that children who had experienced the brain tumors recalled significantly fewer details about recent events.

Sekeres admits more research on the hippocampus is necessary to truly understand this correlation. Her research also shows that the children maintain their memories of early life. Long term memory, and previously formed memories do not seem to be affected by the cancer treatments. Researchers describe the next step in the process as investigating rehabilitation. With a potential problem identified, scientists can begin working on ways to prevent memory loss or develop therapies to assist young patients going through radiation treatment.


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