Coping With a Brain Tumor Diagnosis

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By Suki Gibson, L.M.S.W., Rebecca Savoie, L.C.S.W. and Mark Anderson, L.M.S.W., Department of Social Work

An individual's memory, thinking and/or emotions are often affected by a brain tumor diagnosis and treatment.
The extent of these changes can vary from person to person and may affect the individual's ability to work or go about his or her daily life. A brain tumor can impact your ability to function in various ways.

Your ability to organize thoughts and make decisions may be impaired. You may have difficulty remembering information you've been given or have a harder time expressing yourself or understanding conversations. Emotions may also be affected and you may find yourself reacting differently to situations, friends and family.

These impairments can feel overwhelming. However, there are some memory strategies individuals can adopt to limit their impact. Some of these can include:

  • Getting enough rest/sleep: let your body recharge
  • Taking breaks throughout the day
  • Planning ahead

  • Limiting distractions
  • Focusing on one task at a time
  • Developing routines
  • Having important conversations in a quiet environment
  • Using a tape recorder
  • Making lists
  • Using a calendar, organizer and/or notebook
  • Using an alarm clock as a reminder
  • Being patient with yourself
Having difficulty during conversations can be particularly troubling. These are some strategies that can be used to make this easier:

  • Repeating things
  • Saying things out loud
  • Paraphrasing
  • Asking questions
  • Associating information with things you are already familiar with
Changes in memory can be very difficult for patients and families to cope with. It is important to be patient with each other and to remind yourselves that no two days are alike.

The Department of Social Work at MD Anderson offers a support group for patients and families who are coping with a brain tumor diagnosis. This group meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays each month, 3 p.m.-4 p.m., in the Brain and Spine Center (Main Building, Floor 7, near Elevator B). 

For more information about this support group, please contact Suki Gibson (713-792-0772) or Rebecca Savoie (713-794-1777).

Additionally, there is a unique opportunity coming this May. MD Anderson and the National Brain Tumor Society are co-sponsoring Together in Hope, A Conference for Brain Tumor Patients and Their Families.

This conference is designed to answer your questions about the newest research on the causes and treatment of brain tumors, and strategies for dealing with issues faced by brain tumor patients, their loved ones and caregivers. To register, please call 713-792-2223 or you can register online at

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