Chemotherapy Brain Issues May Come From Stress, Not Drugs
Chemotherapy causes a brain issue known as "chemo brain," which is categorized by forgetfulness and a "foggy" feeling after undergoing chemotherapy. But according to new research, presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, chemotherapy-induced chemo brain is not caused by chemotherapy itself, but the stress associated with the procedure.
Researchers examined women with breast cancer, and gave them cognitive tests. Those slated for chemotherapy did worse on cognitive tests before undergoing chemotherapy, indicating that the drugs did not cause the chemo brain. In addition, women slated to undergo radiation, not chemotherapy, also scored poorly, showing that chemotherapy likely played no role in chemo brain.
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The researchers found that the chemotherapy group performed worst just before chemotherapy and one month after, while the radiation group performed just as poorly before the test, but much better one month after.
The findings show that more needs to be done to reduce the stress that cancer patients feel during diagnosis, treatment, and beyond.
"There is a need for increased clinical awareness that cognitive problems can begin before any treatment and might get worse over time," Bernadine Cimprich, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing said, according to Bloomberg News. "'Chemo brain may not be the right label for cancer-related cognitive dysfunction. That then opens an opportunity for various interventions that were not there before.''
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