How Does Brain Cancer Affect Everyday Life?

By The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center



Living with brain cancer is a complex journey that can significantly influence various aspects of everyday life. No diagnosis or situation is the same, and because of this, what a patient’s day-to-day life looks like can vary greatly. Let’s dive into the most common ways brain cancer can impact individuals, emphasizing the challenges and adjustments that come with this diagnosis.

Contrary to popular belief, many individuals dealing with a brain tumor diagnosis can still maintain a good quality of life. Personalized supportive care and treatments, clear communication and collaboration with a great healthcare team, and a solid framework of emotional support from loved ones are key to living with this disease. 


Navigating Emotional & Psychological Impact

Receiving a brain cancer diagnosis is an emotionally overwhelming experience. Individuals may face a range of emotions, from fear to sadness. Counseling and support groups become invaluable resources in helping patients and their loved ones navigate this emotional turmoil.

Everyone feels a different range of emotions in their own unique way when dealing with a diagnosis. However, here are the most common emotions and phases patients go through when hearing the shocking news. 


  • Shock: It is entirely normal to feel a profound sense of shock upon receiving a brain cancer diagnosis. The sudden and unexpected nature of such news can be overwhelming, leaving individuals grappling with disbelief and a sense of unreality.


  • Denial: Denial often follows shock as a defense mechanism. It's a way for the mind to protect itself from the full impact of the diagnosis. Individuals may find it challenging to accept the reality of having brain cancer, leading to a temporary state of denial.


  • Anger: The onset of anger is a common emotional response to a brain cancer diagnosis. Individuals may feel a sense of injustice, questioning why this is happening to them. Anger can serve as a natural outlet for the frustration and fear associated with the situation.


  • Guilt: It's not uncommon for feelings of guilt to surface, particularly when individuals begin to question past choices or behaviors, even if unrelated to the diagnosis. It's essential to acknowledge that these feelings are a natural part of the emotional turmoil that accompanies a challenging diagnosis. 


  • Anxiety/Depression: The weight of a brain cancer diagnosis can trigger intense anxiety and periods of depression. Uncertainty about the future, the impact on loved ones, and the challenges of treatment can contribute to a range of complex emotions that may manifest as anxiety or depression.


  • Acceptance: Acceptance is not an immediate response but rather a gradual process. It involves coming to terms with the diagnosis and understanding that it is part of one's life. Achieving acceptance doesn't negate the difficulty of the situation but allows individuals to move forward with a clearer mindset.


It's crucial to validate these emotions as completely normal reactions to the complexities of a brain cancer diagnosis. Each individual's journey is unique, and acknowledging and understanding these emotions is a vital step toward emotional well-being. Seeking support from healthcare professionals, loved ones, or support groups can provide invaluable assistance in navigating and processing these intense feelings.


Tips to Help Improve Mindset

Coping with the emotional stress of a brain cancer diagnosis requires a multifaceted approach that prioritizes mental well-being. Here are some practical tips to help individuals navigate and improve their mindset during this challenging journey:


  • Mindful Meditation: Engage in mindful meditation as a tool to center and calm the mind. Mindfulness practices, such as focused breathing or guided meditation, can bring a sense of tranquility amidst the emotional turmoil associated with a brain cancer diagnosis.


  • Journaling: Expressing thoughts and emotions through journaling can be therapeutic. Take time to jot down your feelings, fears, and hopes. Reflecting on your journey allows for a deeper understanding of your emotions and promotes a sense of self-awareness.


  • Open Communication: Don't hesitate to openly communicate with your healthcare team, loved ones, and friends. Share your thoughts, concerns, and aspirations. Transparent communication fosters understanding, and having a supportive network can alleviate feelings of isolation.


  • Reach Out to Peers: Connect with others who share a similar diagnosis. Joining support groups or reaching out to individuals who have faced similar challenges can provide a sense of camaraderie and shared experiences. Learning from others' coping strategies can be empowering.


  • Creative Outlets: Engage in creative outlets as a means of self-expression. Whether it's art, music, or writing, channeling emotions into creative endeavors can offer a therapeutic release. Embrace activities that resonate with your interests and provide an avenue for self-discovery.


  • Mind-Body Practices: Explore mind-body practices such as yoga or tai chi. These activities not only contribute to physical well-being but also promote a harmonious connection between the mind and body. Gentle movements and focused breathing can be particularly soothing.


  • Professional Counseling: Consider seeking professional counseling or therapy to navigate the emotional complexities of a brain cancer diagnosis. Mental health professionals can provide guidance, coping strategies, and a safe space to explore emotions.


  • Connecting with Nature: Spend time in nature to foster a sense of calm and connection. Whether it's a walk in the park, sitting by the water, or simply enjoying the outdoors, nature has a profound impact on mental well-being.


  • Interaction with Service Dogs or Animals: The companionship of service dogs or animals can bring comfort and joy. Their presence provides a source of emotional support and can alleviate stress. Consider spending time with therapy animals or, if suitable, having a pet as part of your support system.


  • Set Realistic Goals: Establish realistic and achievable goals for yourself. Breaking down larger objectives into smaller, manageable tasks provides a sense of accomplishment and helps maintain a positive mindset throughout the journey.


  • Embrace Positivity: Surround yourself with positivity. Seek out inspirational stories, motivational quotes, or uplifting activities. Creating a positive environment can significantly impact your mindset and foster resilience in the face of adversity.


Relationships and Communication

Maintaining healthy relationships while dealing with brain cancer can be challenging. Open and honest communication is crucial. Expressing feelings and concerns can foster understanding among family and friends, creating a supportive environment for the individual battling this condition.


Building a Support System

Caregivers play a crucial role in the journey of someone with brain cancer. Their support is invaluable, extending beyond the realms of physical care to emotional and practical assistance. Caregiver support networks provide resources and guidance for those in this essential role. Look for support groups you can join as well to expand your support system. 


Advocacy and Awareness

By sharing personal stories and experiences, individuals contribute to the broader conversation, dispelling myths and fostering understanding. Participating in awareness campaigns helps create a supportive community and encourages ongoing research into effective treatments. This is optional but it can help you connect with people who are going through similar challenges as you. 


Understanding Your Brain Cancer Diagnosis 

When faced with a brain cancer diagnosis, it's paramount to recognize the vast differences among brain tumor types. The location, size, and type of the tumor significantly influence your situation. Some tumors may be benign (non-cancerous), while others are malignant (cancerous). 

Each diagnosis comes with its own unique set of challenges, requiring tailored approaches to treatment and care. Ask questions and make sure you fully understand your diagnosis to be better prepared and informed throughout the whole process. 


Treatment Options

Navigating the array of treatment options is a crucial aspect of understanding your brain cancer diagnosis. From surgery and chemotherapy to radiation therapy and experimental treatments, the approach depends on the specific characteristics of your tumor.

A healthcare team experienced in treating brain tumors will work closely with you to determine the most effective and personalized treatment plan. Head to our blog, “What is the Best Treatment for Brain Cancer: Unraveling the Options” to learn more about potential treatment options. 


Managing Brain Tumor Symptoms

The impact of a brain cancer diagnosis extends beyond medical treatments to managing symptoms. Symptoms can vary widely, from headaches and cognitive changes to motor skill impairment. 

Understanding how to address and cope with these symptoms is integral to enhancing your quality of life. A comprehensive approach may involve medications, rehabilitation, and lifestyle adjustments tailored to your unique situation. 


Lifestyle Adjustments

Individuals with brain cancer may need to make significant lifestyle adjustments. This could include changes in diet, exercise routines, and sleep patterns to support overall well-being. Occupational and physical therapy may also play a crucial role in adapting to the physical limitations imposed by the illness.


Diet & Nutrition 

It is advisable to try and incorporate a healthy and nutritious diet to help fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to stay strong. Work with your doctors and nutritionists to craft a plan that fits your needs. 

Oftentimes, patients may experience nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting while going through certain brain cancer treatments. Here are some tips to help minimize symptoms like nausea and vomiting: 


  • Nutrient-Rich Diet: Focus on incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Nutrient-dense foods provide essential vitamins and minerals, supporting your body's resilience during the challenges of brain cancer.


  • Hydration: Adequate water intake helps manage potential side effects of treatments and supports overall health. Consider consulting with a nutritionist to tailor your fluid intake to your individual needs.


  • Dietary Restrictions: In some cases, dietary restrictions may be necessary. Certain medications or treatments may impact your appetite or require specific dietary adjustments. Working closely with healthcare professionals and nutritionists ensures a diet plan that aligns with your unique circumstances.


  • Smaller Meals: Eat smaller meals more frequently; this can help with digestion and it may be easier to take in smaller portions of food when your stomach is feeling sick. 


  • Simple Foods: Try incorporating plain foods such as toast, applesauce, crackers, or yogurt to help reduce nausea. 


  • Avoid Greasy Foods: Try your best to avoid any fried or overly greasy foods, especially if you are experiencing constipation. 


  • Caloric Food: You may find yourself losing your appetite often, when you do eat, try choosing foods that are higher in calories to give your body more energy. 



Incorporating exercise into the routine of individuals with a brain cancer diagnosis holds significant benefits for both physical and mental well-being. Before starting any exercise regimen, consult with your healthcare team.

They can provide insights into safe and suitable activities, considering your overall health and the specific implications of your brain cancer diagnosis. Open communication ensures a collaborative approach to integrating exercise into your lifestyle. Try beginning with low impact workouts like swimming or gentle walks; aim for activities that enhance mobility and strength.

Regular exercise contributes to mental well-being. It can help alleviate stress, reduce anxiety, and improve mood. Engaging in activities such as walking, yoga, or gentle stretching supports physical health and enhances the overall quality of life. 


Cognitive Side Effects 

Cognitive changes are common in individuals with brain cancer. These changes can affect memory, concentration, and problem-solving skills. Cognitive rehabilitation programs may be needed and are designed to address these challenges, offering strategies to enhance cognitive function and improve daily functioning.


Continuing Needed Brain Cancer Treatments 

Receiving a brain cancer diagnosis initiates a journey that often involves ongoing treatments, requiring individuals to integrate medical interventions into their daily lives. Understanding and adapting to this new normal is crucial for effectively managing the disease. Here's what to consider:


  • Frequent Medical Visits: Continuing brain cancer treatments often entails frequent visits to healthcare professionals for tests, assessments, and adjustments to the treatment plan. Embracing these regular check-ups is essential for monitoring the progress of the treatment and ensuring that it aligns with your evolving needs.


  • Adapting to Treatment Schedules: Incorporating treatments into your life means adjusting to specific schedules. Whether it's chemotherapy sessions, radiation therapy, or other interventions, finding a routine that accommodates these treatments becomes integral. Collaborating with your healthcare team to establish a schedule that aligns with your daily life is essential for seamless integration.


  • Dealing with Side Effects: Brain cancer treatments may bring about side effects that impact your daily life. From fatigue and nausea to changes in cognitive function, acknowledging and addressing these side effects is crucial. Open communication with your healthcare team allows for proactive management, ensuring that side effects are minimized as much as possible.


  • Quality of Life Considerations: Balancing the need for continued treatments with maintaining a reasonable quality of life is a delicate task. It involves making decisions about the intensity and duration of treatments based on your preferences and overall well-being. Open discussions with your healthcare team about your goals and priorities help shape a treatment plan that aligns with your values.


Returning to Work or School 

Returning to work or school after a brain cancer diagnosis is a deeply personal decision, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It's essential to acknowledge that individuals may have varying perspectives on how employment or academic pursuits align with their recovery. Here are key considerations and tips for those contemplating a return:


  • Personal Choices and Recovery: Recognize that there is no definitive "right" answer when it comes to returning to work or school. Some may find the routine and structure beneficial, while others may feel that dedicating more time to recovery or spending quality moments with loved ones is a priority. Trusting your instincts and understanding your unique situation is paramount.


  • Open Communication: If contemplating a return to work or school, open communication is key. Discuss your intentions and concerns with your healthcare team, employer, or educators. Establishing transparent communication lines ensures that everyone is on the same page, allowing for necessary accommodations and support.


  • Flexible Schedules: Consider negotiating flexible work hours or part-time arrangements. Flexibility in your schedule can provide the balance needed for both work or school commitments and your health. Many employers and educational institutions are open to accommodating individual needs, fostering an environment conducive to overall well-being.


  • Emotional and Practical Support: Seek support from loved ones, colleagues, or classmates who can provide understanding and encouragement. Practical assistance, such as having a designated workspace or access to resources that ease your transition, contributes to a smoother reintegration.


  • Prioritize Self-Care: Regardless of your decision to return to work or school, prioritizing self-care is non-negotiable. Ensure you have adequate rest, manage stress, and incorporate activities that promote your mental and physical well-being. Balancing responsibilities with self-care is essential for sustained recovery and overall life satisfaction.


  • Set Realistic Goals: If returning to work or school, set realistic goals that align with your current capabilities. Understand that adjustments may be necessary and progress may occur gradually. Establishing achievable milestones ensures a sense of accomplishment without overwhelming yourself.


  • School Accommodations: Get in touch with your school’s disability services center and see what flexibility they can offer you to make school more manageable. For instance, you can get an extension on the deadline for class work and exams, as well as more time off to meet all your scheduled appointments. Some schools even offer note-taking services and more. 


Brain Cancer Doctors Near You

If you or a loved one is facing the complexities of a brain cancer diagnosis, the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center is one of the best brain cancer centers in the world. As a world-renowned facility, we are committed to providing exceptional care, cutting-edge treatments, and unwavering support throughout your journey.

Our all-star team comprises dedicated brain cancer doctors, including pediatric brain cancer doctors, recognized globally for their expertise and commitment to advancing treatment options.

We offer a holistic approach to diagnosis and treatment, ensuring every aspect of your unique situation is addressed with the utmost precision and care. Benefit from the latest advancements in brain cancer treatments, personalized to your specific diagnosis, and cutting-edge clinical trials. Our commitment to innovation positions us at the forefront of medical breakthroughs.

At the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, we understand the emotional challenges that come with a brain cancer diagnosis. Our compassionate team is here to provide the support and guidance you need throughout your journey.

Don't let a brain cancer diagnosis define your future. Take the next step toward hope, healing, and exceptional care. Contact our brain cancer center located in Durham, NC, today to schedule a consultation with our renowned team of brain cancer doctors. Your journey to recovery begins here.


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