Promising Treatment for Cancer Patients with "Chemo Brain"
Research published over the past year has shown promising results for a treatment for chemo fog – also known as chemo brain. That’s the non scientific name for the cognitive issues that can affect cancer patients after treatment. It’s been indicated that the affects of Chemo Brain are similar to the decline in cognitive abilities that we can see with aging.
What’s unique with one of the studies completed at the University of Illinois is that the research looked at two different perspectives to see if the treatment helped cancer patients. The study looked at patients’ ‘self reporting’ or what patients told the researchers about whether they felt they had improved (these are subjective findings). But the study also had cancer patients participate in cognitive tests and compared the results before treatment and after treatment (objective results).
The good news is that both the objective and subjective results are in alignment and find that this treatment is helping breast cancer patients improve the deficits that come from cancer treatment in areas of attention, memory and multi-tasking. This includes things like word finding, forgetfulness of dates/appointments, and problems with attention and focus.
One of the interesting findings from the studies is that starting treatment sooner rather than later showed more improvement than those patients who waited a few years to start. The recommendation is to begin treatment as soon as you can after diagnosis to get the maximum benefit.
The other things that I found important is that increasing the treatment dose gave better outcomes on test scores for memory and attention than patients who had less treatment.
What’s great is that this treatment has been used to help cancer patients with other side effects and shown good results. It helps with fatigue, and nausea as well as longer term issues like osteoporosis and cardiac issues.
Unfortunately, this treatment isn’t covered by drug plans but it’s not expensive. In fact, cancer patients and survivors only need to do one thing to have this treatment available to them.
They need motivation. Why? Because this treatment is exercise.
So put on your sneakers and break through the chemo fog. Every little bit helps so start slowly, do what you can, and be proud of yourself for taking each step.
Hartman, SJ et al. Randomized controlled trial of increasing physical activity on objectively measured and self-reported cognitive functioning among breast cancer survivors: The memory & motion study. Cancer. 2018 Jan 1;124(1):192-202.
Diane K. Ehlers, et al. The effects of physical activity and fatigue on cognitive performance in breast cancer survivors. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, 2017