Q. My husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year, and I've noticed a change in his behavior. He can be short-tempered with me and not very nice to our children. I know he is under a lot of stress (he is trying to continue to work while receiving treatment), but I'm worried things will get worse. Is there any connection between his cancer and/or treatment and his behavior?

A.

When a person is diagnosed with a brain tumor, changes in behavior and thinking occur in most patients at some point during their treatment. Changes in behavior may include mild memory loss, mood swings, or intense emotional outbursts. Tumor location, medications (such as chemotherapy and steroids), and stressful life situations can influence behavior. The first step is for you and your husband to discuss these changes. Have you let him know that you feel his behavior has changed? He may or may not be fully aware of these changes.

The second step is to share any changes in personality or behavior with his doctor to rule out a medical cause and make any adjustment to medications if that is needed. The change in his personality may also be due to the stress he is under and a sign that he is struggling emotionally with his diagnosis. A brain tumor diagnosis can bring up many feelings, including anxiety, anger, or sadness. As your husband’s primary caregiver, those feelings may be directed towards you since you are the one he is closest to and trusts. Letting him know how his behavior is affecting you and the family and seeking support can be incredibly helpful. If you are having trouble communicating, couples counseling may help. It may also be helpful for you as his caregiver to have added support at this time. Seeking counseling, joining a support group, talking to a trusted friend or family member, or even writing in a journal can help.

CancerCare provides support services for both patients and caregivers. You can also view all of our brain tumor support services, including an online brain tumor caregiver support group.

Finally, here are some publications that may also be helpful as you care for your husband: