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Brain radiotherapy leads to decline in mental function
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Brain radiotherapy leads to decline in mental function

Radiotherapy can damage memories and attention spans of patients being treated for brain tumours, according to a new study.

London, Aug 10 : Radiotherapy can damage memories and attention spans of patients being treated for brain tumours, according to a new study.

The study of 65 patients, 12 years after they were treated, showed that those who had radiotherapy were more likely to experience decline in mental function.

The study, conducted by Dutch researchers, suggests that doctors should hold off using radiotherapy where possible.

In the study, the patients had a form of brain tumour called a low-grade glioma - one of the most common types of brain tumour.

In these cases, radiotherapy is commonly given after initial surgery to remove the tumour, but there is some debate about whether this should be done immediately or used only if the cancer returns. t is known that radiation treatment in the brain causes some damage to normal tissue and the study's researchers suspected it could lead to decline in mental function.

A previous study in the same patients, done six years after treatment, found no difference in aspects like memory, attention and the speed at which people could process information, in those who had received radiotherapy.

However, the new study, conducted more than a decade after original treatment, did find significant variation in the results of several mental tests between those who had had radiotherapy and those who had not.

In all, 53 percent of patients who had radiotherapy showed decline in brain function compared with 27 percent of patients who only had surgery.

The most profound differences were in tests to measure attention.

With an average survival of ten years for this type of tumour, the researchers said patients undergoing radiotherapy were at considerable risk of developing problem years down the road.

The researchers advised that one option for doctors would be to delay when patients received radiotherapy, reserving it in case the tumour returned.

"It always depends on the patient, but if it is possible to defer radiotherapy, maybe people should," the BBC quoted study leader Dr Linda Douw, from the Department of Neurology at VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, as saying.

The study has been described in The Lancet Neurology.


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