Personality changes following brain tumor surgery

Written by karen taylor
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Personality changes following brain tumor surgery
Personality changes are common after brain tumour surgery. (blue brain image by John Sfondilias from

The brain is a complex organ. According to the National Brain Tumor Society, it's close to impossible to predict the effects of a brain tumour itself, the surgery, radiation treatment, immunotherapy and chemotherapy. Personality changes are one possible side effect of surgery for a brain tumour. Patients may experience any combination of various other side effects--which may include difficulty or changes in language, attention, concentration, learning, memory and general cognitive abilities. The National Brain Tumor Society states that personality changes are sometimes overlooked by professionals, but occur in more than half of patients.

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Why Personality Changes Occur

Depending on the location of the tumour, pathways from the tumour to other areas of the brain may be affected. Surgery and other treatments for brain tumours may also disrupt or even damage some areas of the brain.


According to the University of Virginia, "Ninety-three per cent of patients reported symptoms consistent with depression immediately following an operation for a brain tumour." Recovery from brain tumour surgery can be a physically and mentally difficult process. Patients may become frustrated and depressed. Depression can also be a result of a disruption in the brain. Common symptoms for depression include feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or sadness; trouble sleeping or sleeping too much; irritability; restlessness; loss of interest in daily activities or hobbies; crying spells; fatigue; generally feeling miserable, but unable to pinpoint why; thoughts of suicide; and social isolation.

New Behaviors

Some patients may experience changes in sexual interests, compulsive tendencies, loss of inhibitions or withdrawal. Some patients may laugh at things that are not funny or perhaps have outbursts of anger.

Other changes

Additional personality changes--which may or may not be connected to depression--include anxiety, irritability, apathy, euphoria and sudden mood changes.

How to get help

If you or a loved one is experiencing personality changes after brain tumour surgery, contact a neuropsychologist, preferably one who has experience working with brain tumour patients. If you are caring for a brain tumour patient, take notes on when symptoms occur. Note the time, duration and circumstances. Report your findings to a doctor. Maintaining a routine at home may help lower anxiety for the patient.

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