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Oncology (General Cancer)/Cancer and effect on the brain


My sister was diagnosed and operated on for cancer in her uterus about 2 and half weeks ago. Before and after the cancer she hasn't been able to eat even though all the cancer (and uterus) was removed. She came home and become dehydrated and her potassium levels dropped to a dangerous level and she went back into the hospital.

Before this last trip to the hospital, she was mentally sound, but now her mind has deteriorated (practically over night) to the point that she thinks she is still at home. Frequently talks about others that have died as if they are still alive. She knows she is in the hospital, but at the same time she thinks she is in her bedroom at home. The doctors at this hospital are telling us that she has had a mental breakdown and are saying she will need to go into a nursing home. Does this sound at all plausible? How can someone just go mental over night?

I don't know how old your sister is.  Elderly people sometimes slip into dementia when too many things about their lives are changing.  For younger people, I would strongly suspect that you are dealing with delerium, which is usually due to a chemical imbalance or more often, problems with drugs.  I would strongly recommend an evaluation by a good psychiatrist before consigning her to a nursing home.  If she is having hallucinatory thoughts (thinking she is at home when she also knows she's in the hospital) that's usually a sign of something reversible.  Hope this helps.  (Also check for a urinary tract infection.  Sometimes in elderly people change in mental status might be the only sign) Hope this helps.  

Oncology (General Cancer)

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Donald Higby, M.D.


I can answer almost all questions related to the treatment and natural course of most kinds of cancer, especially cancers of prostate, colon, lung and breast.


I have been a practicing medical oncologist for 36 years, and have been chief of service at a major medical center for 25 years. I've also done research in cancer treatments.

American Society of Clinical Oncology

New England Journal of Medicine American Journal of Medicine Journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Hematology Transfusion Medicine

MD, Stanford University Internal Medicine residency, St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO Medical Oncology Fellowship, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY

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