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Can the growth of cancer impact the progression of dementia?


New member
Mar 2, 2022
My mom has been living with dementia since 2016. In talking with other dementia caregivers, I realize that the progression of my mom’s dementia has been very slow (thank goodness) when comparing notes. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in October of 2021. After consulting with her doctors, we opted to go the route of comfort care instead of treatment. She is still able to independently move around the house, and she still knows who everyone is, for which I am so grateful. I have noticed within the past week that her short term memory has become even shorter, which is seeming to coincide with her more consistent complaints of belly pain. I’m wondering if there’s research to support the idea that as cancer progresses, it negatively impacts the progression of dementia as well.


Registered User
Feb 9, 2017
Hi @IrishPirateGirl, whether cancer affects a persons dementia will depend on the cancer and what it is doing to a person. If someone with dementia is unwell or in pain it can worsen things quite dramatically.
MIL has chronic leukaemia, she was extremely anaemic in the early stages and her dementia declined dramatically. She is no longer anaemic and her cancer markers are low and she is better orientated in her home.


Volunteer Moderator
Dec 15, 2012
hello @IrishPirateGirl
a warm welcome to DTP

how tough on your mum to have both conditions together
I agree it's worth checking for an infection
and maybe asking for her pain meds to be reviewed as coping with pain saps energy, as does trying to make sense of the world


Registered User
Sep 6, 2017
Hi @IrishPirateGirl My dad was diagnosed with dementia in 2017 but he had been showing signs since 2011 and possibly earlier. Dad was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2018 at the age of 87after losing a great deal of weight, about 4 stone in 4 months. It took a while to get to the bottom of his weight loss because he said that he felt fine but was just full up.

I don't think that the cancer made my dads alzhiemers any worse. His oncologist also felt that palliative care was the best option for dad and we agreed and she was absolutely right. She also said that the operation would kill him and chemo would make him ill and also possibly kill him and she was right again, they certainly would not have improved his quality of life.

Dad did better without treatment than he would have done with it, in fact he had another two happy and contented years in his own home before he died. His palliative care consisted of a stent so he could eat again which did wonders and he regained most of the weight that he had previously lost. He also had a couple of iron infusions that made him feel better and when he was hospitalised with pneumonia a year later he had intravenous antibiotics and blood transfusions.

None of these treatments were intended to extend his life apart from the stent (I never fail to be amazed at the difference that little tube made to my dads quality of life) The other treatments were to keep dad comfortable.

The pneumonia and the stay in hospital did affect dads dementia quite badly but he recovered and went home and was happy there. I think that any infection or upset can cause dementia symptoms to worsen and it would be a good idea to get your mum checked for an infection and get her pain medication reviewed just in case. My dad didn't suffer any pain until the last couple of weeks and thankfully we quickly got it controlled so he was comfortable at the end.

I would listen to what the consultant says and go from there. Dads consultant said that it was important to do no harm and I am ever thankful to her.

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