Anyone notice cognitive impairment with throat cancer or treatment?

Posted by phyllisg @phyllisg, May 29 11:48am

My husband has had his 13th radiation treatment for throat cancer. Surgery did not get it all. He can't swallow. Has anyone else notice any degree of cognitive impairment from either throat cancer or radiation?

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Sure, in 2008 I was officially Stage IVB T2N3M0 on left tonsil caused by HPV and one of my 3 infected lymph nodes was over 7cm and that is not a typo. I had 35 rounds of radiation which amounted to 70 Gy and 3 rounds of the platinum-based chemo Cisplatin and had no surgery whatsoever as I got a second opinion that said I wouldn't need it and were extremely confident I wouldn't need a feeding tube either and they were correct, but it was not easy at all. Since I did not want to lose weight, it took me usually 2 hours to eat and had to blend a lot of food and had a box of Kleenex next to me as it was very painful to swallow. Took about 3 months from my last radiation treatment to have no pain except for spicy food which took longer.

I did research then and found in an England Journal of Medicine that honey could help soothe the throat. I did shots of real honey not the ones you find in your local grocery store which most all are synthetic and don’t have the same benefits. It definitely took some of the edge off for me. I would use Manuka honey which you can find on Amazon that scores UMF 10+ and MGO rating of 100+ is considered potent enough for medicinal use- the higher the rating, the more potent, and of course, the more expensive, the honey.

Taste could go away too for a period of time (mine was about 8 months) and will have dry mouth. To help with taste buds' and regain them faster people have found ACES + Zn® supplement works. It contains vitamins A, C, E selenium and zinc.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

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Thanks for the tips. My experiences were very similar to yours. I would tell others going through this that you will get better.

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@phyllisg, memory or cognitive issues can happen during or after treatment. You may have heard it called "brain fog." Most often it is associated with chemotherapy, but radiation can cause it too. Read more here:

- Memory or Concentration Problems and Cancer Treatment https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/memory

Did your husband have any cognitive decline before cancer? How often does he have radiation and how many more treatments to go?

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@colleenyoung

@phyllisg, memory or cognitive issues can happen during or after treatment. You may have heard it called "brain fog." Most often it is associated with chemotherapy, but radiation can cause it too. Read more here:

- Memory or Concentration Problems and Cancer Treatment https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/memory

Did your husband have any cognitive decline before cancer? How often does he have radiation and how many more treatments to go?

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No cognitive impairment before the cancer. He has radiation 5 days a week. 19 down, 16 to go.

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HI Phyllis,

Yes, I was quite bright prior to my cancer treatments. Afterward and during I was not so bright. Over time, as I got better ( finished 35 radiation and 7 chemo) in February of 2023. By end of the year I started doing word and math games on my phone or tablet. Also memory games, reaction games, studying spanish etc. I know, I am a big math and word geek! Point is, I still do these things today, and 95 percent of that Chemo fog, radiation fog, I dont' rightly know, it all bowled me over bigtime, but that has passed. Memory is still at some degree of issue for me, but I am largely back to where I was prior to this sordid adventure cognitively. There is no doubt these treatments impact your mental acuity, during and after.
On another note, in my experience the last couple weeks of radiation and chemo were the worst by miles. I had severe burns on my neck, bad enough for prescription burn cream. I was spitting up gallons of blood and various colors. I was told my Throat was, " Shedding" I asked for clarity and was told I am spitting out my throat/ dead tissue. My cancer was Laryngeal. If burns begin to appear ask for SSD/ Silvadene ( SP? _) burn cream. That is what I did on a nurses recommendation, ithelped to some degree. I also kept in the refrigerator so when applied it was......miraculous!~ If he is getting tons of mucus/ sputum/ and saliva,having to spit all the time...Mix a teaspoon of MEAT TENDERIZER with warmish water and gargle it. Leaves and awful taste, but my mouth was a disaster already...that ugly combo would shtu down my production of fluids into my mouth for, not long, but any relief is good relief. Half houir, or an hour. SO worth it. I used this little trick many times.

GOOD LUCK TO YOU AND HE!! Stay strong! Keep asking questions here, there, anywhere. You cannot have too much input in a cancer situation. That is my take anyway.

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Thank you. And, yes, you can never have too much information. No one told us about coughing up blood from internal radiation burns. I assume this is what you are referring to.

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I can attest to memory loss or perhaps cognitive issues after radiation. Considering that the hair was blown off the lower half of my head, I was concerned what was going on inside my noggin. After recovery I found I had loss in memory of specific places I had visited and people I had met. Not everyone or everywhere, just a few specific people and places. I also completely lost certain math formulas I often used in work, very common to my work but completely gone such as area of a circle. It was rather concerning as one does not know what one does not know. Did I know how to perform certain flying maneuvers I knew well for years as a pilot? Did I know the meaning of all road signs when I drive?
It's scary stuff. Time will tell. We seem to have the ability to relearn if necessary.

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Hello Phyllis,
I am approximately 7.5 years out from stage IV treatments and yes brain fog is a big problem for me.
I’m not totally positive that the brain fog is caused by my treatments or the toxic chemicals I was exposed to at Camp Lejuene while in the Marine Corps. Symptoms of the toxic exposure seem to be similar to post cancer treatments but everything seemed to happen during and after my treatments…of course the Government is not taking blame for it!
Wishing you the best

MOJO

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Yes, brain fog is a killer, but it seems to be short term memory. I am 4.6 years post chemo/radiation for squamous cell carcinoma base of tongue (P 16 positive) Many collateral damages, severe post nasal drip (thick and ropey), head and neck lymphedema (the worst case they have seen in 15 years), brain fog, insomnia, chronic pain, migraines with aura, plaque psoriasis, vertigo and the list goes on. As for fighting with the VA... Stationed at Kadena Okinawa. Served from 1980 -1984. < -- the PACT ACT is a joke at best. You submit all the proof, and the VBA/VFW raters deny... My barracks was built on top of barrels of 2,4-D and the n-butyl ester of 2,4,5-T. Discovered while the demo of the barracks and building the new school... Still denied... Just like the movie "The Jerk" : from the scene Guess your weight...

Uh, anything in this general area right in here. Anything
below the stereo and on this side of the bicentennial glasses.
Anything between the ashtrays and the thimble. Anything in this
three inches right in here in this area. That includes the
Chiclets, but not the erasers.

And the fight continues. Run by criminals and politicians with rigged rules.

Prayers for everyone. Cancer is something that should not be wished on anyone, even your worst enemy.

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