‘Chemo Brain’ in Cancer Patients Likely Linked to Disease, Not Treatment, in Some Cases, Study Finds
"Chemo brain," the memory and other cognitive problems experienced by some cancer patients who receive chemotherapy, may result from the disease rather than the treatment, according to a study published Monday in the online edition of the journal Cancer, the Wall Street Journal reports. In the study, researchers from the University of Texas-M.D. Anderson Cancer Center tracked the cognitive impairment of 84 breast cancer patients before and after chemotherapy. The study found that 35% of participants experienced cognitive impairment prior to chemotherapy -- "far higher than what would be expected in an average population" -- although researchers could not determine whether the impairment was directly linked with cancer, the Journal reports. The study also found that 61% of participants experienced cognitive impairment after chemotherapy (Parker-Pope, Wall Street Journal, 6/21). About half of those participants recovered within one year after they received chemotherapy (Yee, AP/Miami Herald, 6/21). According to the Journal, the results of the study indicate that cancer patients concerned about chemo brain should receive a complete neuro-psychological evaluation before chemotherapy begins (Wall Street Journal, 6/21). The study is important because some cancer patients "have been hesitant to undergo chemotherapy out of fear of developing" chemo brain, the Herald reports (Miami Herald, 6/21). According to study co-author Dr. Christina Meyers, a professor of neuro-psychology at M.D. Anderson, the results indicate that "you might misattribute poor performance to chemo when it didn't occur, and you might miss a true chemotherapy-related decline when it does occur. That's why looking at people before they start treatment is important" (Wall Street Journal, 6/21). The study is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.