Research proving chemobrain isn’t just a joking matter

Sometimes we hear people joke about having chemobrain when they forget a word, a name, or even an experience. While we have come to understand the side effect of cancer treatment, we’re still looking for the root of the problem.

The article “Lifting the fog” on says “It took decades for research on chemobrain to gain traction, says Tim Ahles, PhD, a behavioral psychologist who leads the neurocognitive research lab at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Ahles says investigators have had a tough time applying science to cancer patients with such a range of cognitive complaints and diverse diagnoses. In addition, patients often suffer from accompanying problems, such as anemia, pain, depression and other illnesses that can affect brain function.”

Now patients are advocating for research and looking for answers on what they can do to restore their brain power. Young adult cancer survivors are pertinent to this research because decrease in memory function is easier to measure opposed to older adults who may be experiencing symptoms of dementia.

The article goes on to say, “Recent studies also call into question whether hormonal therapy can affect cognitive function, says Steven Castellon, PhD, a neuropsychology specialist at UCLA Medical Center’s Stewart and Lynd Resnick Neuropsychology Hospital in Los Angeles. His group has reported that long-term breast cancer survivors who received tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen, in addition to adjuvant chemotherapy tend to experience cognitive decline several years after treatment, as compared with breast cancer survivors who received chemotherapy alone or who took no adjuvant treatment. He says the condition affects men too, including patients with prostate cancer who undergo hormonal therapies. ‘Chemobrain does not discriminate by gender,’ he says. ‘Fewer men are out there who are willing to admit it.’

“Castellon wants to be sure patients understand that these changes are not like those seen in Alzheimer’s.

“‘If we can develop a strong science around it, we can get to the point where people can make more informed treatment decisions,’ he says, adding that there is enough information now for oncologists to bring it up with their patients as a possible long-term effect.”


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