Encephalopathy (Brain Disease)

Autor: Marisa Healy, BSN, RN
Fecha de la última revisión:

What is it?

Encephalopathy is any brain disease that affects how your brain works. It can be from brain damage, disease, or malfunction. Encephalopathy can be caused by: 

  • Chemotherapy.
  • Radiation therapy.
  • Cancer itself.  

Encephalopathy caused by chemotherapy often happens shortly after receiving the medication. It tends to get better over time. Common symptoms are:

  • Insomnia.
  • Anxiety.  
  • Agitation.
  • Depression. 
  • Drowsiness. 
  • Confusion.  
  • Headache.

Encephalopathy caused by radiation therapy may happen while you are getting radiation treatment that includes the brain. When encephalopathy starts during treatment, it is called “acute onset encephalopathy.” It will often get better over time. Signs of acute radiation encephalopathy are headache, nausea, and vomiting.

Encephalopathy can also happen as a late effect of treatment, starting months to years after treatment has ended. Late-onset radiation encephalopathy is often caused by damage done during the initial radiation therapy. Signs of late-onset encephalopathy are:

  • Memory loss. 
  • Confusion.
  • Cognitive dysfunction (how your brain works with the rest of the body).
  • Gait (walking) changes. 
  • Urinary incontinence (can’t control your bladder).

These symptoms often look like the signs of the original cancer diagnosis.

How is it treated?

Treatment for encephalitis depends on what is causing it. Treatment often focuses on supportive care and symptom control. Your care team may suggest medications, changes to your diet, dialysis, surgery, and therapy. 

When should I contact my care team?

If you have any symptoms of encephalopathy, call your care team right away.  

Referencias

Baker M, Markman M, Niu J. Cyclophosphamide-induced severe acute hyponatremic encephalopathy in patients with breast cancer: report of two cases. Case reports in oncology. 2014;7(2):550-4.

Le EM, Loghin ME. Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome: a neurologic phenomenon in cancer patients. Current oncology reports. 2014;16(5):383.

Lyros E, Walter S, Keller I, Papanagiotou P, Fassbender K. Subacute reversible toxic encephalopathy related to treatment with capecitabine: a case report with literature review and discussion of pathophysiology. Neurotoxicology. 2014;42:8-11.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Encephalopathy Information Page. 2019. Found at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Encephalopathy-Information-Page

Sawaya R, Radwan W, Hammoud S. Benign reversible encephalopathy syndrome after bevacizumab therapy for metastatic ovarian cancer. Medical oncology. 2014;31(2):831.

Sharma BC, Sharma P, Lunia MK, Srivastava S, Goyal R, Sarin SK. A randomized, double-blind, controlled trial comparing rifaximin plus lactulose with lactulose alone in treatment of overt hepatic encephalopathy. The American journal of gastroenterology. 2013;108(9):1458-63.

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