Although aphasia typically results from a stroke or brain injury, brain tumors can also cause aphasia. A brain tumor is a mass of cells that grows in the brain. Brain tumors can either be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). A tumor can cause aphasia if it impacts the brain’s language centers. Aphasia due to cancer is called neoplastic aphasia.
Although brain tumors are not as common as strokes, about 30-50% of people with brain tumors experience aphasia. This is higher than the rate of people who experience aphasia following a stroke.
As with aphasia from other causes, the specific impairments will vary from one person to another. Impairments are impacted by the location, size, and grade of the tumor as well as the age of person. Aphasia due to brain tumor appears to be similar to aphasia due to stroke. However, there is not a lot of research on aphasia due to brain tumor and the similarities and differences to aphasia from other causes.
The most common type of aphasia due to brain tumor is anomic aphasia. Aphasia due to brain tumors is more likely to be short-term and more mild than post-stroke aphasia. The outcome and prognosis for cancer-related aphasia is also dependent on the success of the medical treatment. If the tumor is treated successfully, the aphasia is likely to resolve.
Slow-growing brain tumors can also have interesting impacts on the brain. Due to neuroplasticity, the brain can reorganize itself in response to the tumor. This could mean that if the tumor is impacting a language center, the brain can shift language processing to another part of the brain.
Some people with brain tumors experience long-term language impairments even after medical treatment. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can focus on therapy and communication strategies to help people with ongoing communication difficulties.