American Cancer Society says Chemo-brain does exist
Good news is it really happens.
Bad news is we can’t go on blaming forgetfullness on this condition; American Cancer Society says we recover within one to two years.
For years, many cancer survivors have worried, joked about, and been frustrated by the mental cloudiness they experience during and after chemotherapy. This side effect has come to be called “chemo brain.”
According to the American Cancer Society, until recently evidence of this condition was largely anecdotal, and many patients felt like they were “going crazy” or that “it was all in their heads.” On the contrary, chemo brain is very real. It can now even be seen in imaging studies.
One of the biggest hurdles in solving the chemo brain puzzle has been overcome: The scientific and medical communities now recognize chemo brain as a side effect of cancer treatment. This recognition came in large part from imaging studies of the brains of people who had complained of chemo brain. These studies showed smaller brain size in the areas of the brain that are part of memory, planning, putting thoughts into action, monitoring thought processes and behavior, and inhibition.
The picture is clear: Although the brain usually recovers over time, it can be impacted by chemotherapy, proving that the condition known as chemo brain is very real.
What is chemo brain?
As many as 25% to 30% of patients have chemo brain that is not a byproduct of other chemotherapy side effects such as anaemia and fatigue.
According to scientists who research it, chemo brain is a cognitive dysfunction or impairment. Patients cite the following as examples of chemo brain:
* Memory lapses: forgetting things they usually have no trouble recalling
* Trouble concentrating: finding they can’t focus on the task at hand and their minds wander
* Trouble remembering: difficulties remembering small details like names and dates
* Inability to multi-task: difficulty doing more than one thing at a time, like answering the phone while cooking, without losing track of what they were doing
* Taking longer to finish tasks because of slower thinking and processing
* Trouble remembering common words: difficulty finishing sentences because they can’t find the right words
* Inability to learn new skills
So tell you doctor if you have any of the above symptoms. And if they don’t believe you, print out this information which has been sent direct from the American Cancer Society.
What causes chemo brain?
Unfortunately, the American Cancer Society says what causes chemo brain is not known – at least not entirely. What is known is that most people with chemo brain have it as a byproduct of other chemotherapy side effects such as anaemia, fatigue, and depression. In other words, all of these side effects have the potential for causing the side effect of chemo brain. The good news about this is that side effects like anaemia, fatigue, amd depression are treatable.
What is not yet known is how to treat those patients whose chemo brain isn’t caused by one of the above factors. It’s believed that as many as 25% to 30% of patients, both men and women, fall into this category.
To make things even more confusing, some people with cancer are found to have these kinds of cognitive problems before their cancer is treated. Even in these people, the problems tend to improve over time after cancer treatment.
A word of caution
The American Cancer Society says it’s important to remember that most people do eventually recover fully from the effects of chemotherapy, usually a year or two after the end of therapy. Because of this and because chemo brain is usually mild, you should not change your treatment plan just to try to prevent chemo brain.