Understanding the psychological impact of living with a brain tumour

  • Date

    Wed 30 Jun 21

Brain scan

Researchers are looking into the psychological impact of living with a rare brain tumour, in the hope of improving the quality of life for patients.

Dr Katie Daughters, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex has been given a grant by the Society of Endocrinology to investigate whether physical changes, caused by the condition, have an impact on a patient’s emotional well-being.

Her study will include interviews with patients with adult-onset craniopharyngioma – a benign brain tumour which usually grows close to the pituitary gland – as well as the specialist doctors who look after them.

As she explained: “Our aim is to gain a rich understanding of the full impact of this diagnosis on patients’ lives outside the clinic. This is often an overlooked area of research in endocrinology, but a small number of studies suggests these patients suffer a poorer quality of life, but the reasons for this are not well understood.”

In a previous study on brain tumour patients, Dr Daughters found that compared to healthy volunteers, those with under-performing pituitary glands found it very difficult to recognise emotions in others. This lack of empathy can cause behavioural changes which make life difficult for patients.

The pituitary gland is called the master gland of the endocrine system, because it controls many other glands in the body. According to The Pituitary Foundation, without it, the body wouldn't reproduce, wouldn't grow properly and many other bodily functions just wouldn't function. 

“The purpose of the new study is to allow patients and clinicians to tell us what they feel is important for us to know. This approach will allow us to concentrate on the actual needs of the patients.

“By increasing awareness of the psychological implications of endocrine disorders, patients feel their difficulties are acknowledged and we hope this study and follow-up research may lead to their improved psychological wellbeing,” added Dr Daughters.

Themes identified through the initial interviews will be turned into a questionnaire which will be sent to a larger group of patients.