If you’re living with a low-grade glioma, does radiotherapy affect cognition – your ability to think and process information?
In this article, we’ll discuss recent findings on whether radiotherapy affects your ability to think if you’re living with a low grade Glioma. We’ll cover what we mean by low grade glioma, cognition and a systematic review as well as it’s findings. This kind of research is paramount to improving the outlook for people living brain cancer as it allows us to further our understanding of symptoms, treatment and quality of life.
Before we start to share information about this question, there are a three things that need more explanation:
What do we mean by a low grade glioma (LGG)?
A LGG is a grade 2 brain tumour. These usually affect younger people and can transform to a higher grade over a period of a few years.
What do we mean by cognition?
Cognition refers to the mental processes involved in gaining knowledge and comprehension. These cognitive processes include thinking, knowing, remembering, judging, and problem-solving.
What is a systematic review?
A systematic review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets agreed criteria to answer a specific question. This is a great 3-minute clip that describes a systematic review:
Let’s focus on the core of the review. We know that making decisions about how to treat a LGG is hard. On the one hand, radiotherapy can prolong progression-free, and overall survival, in people who have high risk LGGs. But on the other, people living with a LGG can live for several years and radiotherapy can impact on our cognitive capacity and therefore quality of life. Many people who are diagnosed with a LGG are young (younger than 50), and so it is important to balance overall survival with the ability to function at a high level in society.
What did this review conclude?
There is no consistent and convincing evidence that modern radiotherapy produces substantial cognitive deficits in people living with a grade 2 glioma. The quality of evidence is low with confounders. In research that investigates a cause-and-effect relationship, a confounder is an unmeasured third variable that influences both the cause and effect. The main confounder is the location of the tumour.
Currently, withholding radiotherapy is not advisable for people diagnosed with a high risk grade 2 glioma. And of course, what this review won’t have taken into account it the human element. We are all driven by our context, our values and our appetite for risk. Everyone facing decisions about their treatment should have the opportunity to explore all of these aspects with their clinical team – this is called shared decision making. It’s up to the person who is living with the brain tumour to do what is best for them; we are the expert on ourselves. The clinician is the expert on the possibilities.
For other systematic reviews look at the neuro-oncology special collection.
If you have been affected by a brain tumour diagnosis, please reach out to us by calling 01983 292 405 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org