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'Chemo Brain' May Linger 20 Years After Breast Cancer Treatment
Date:2/28/2012

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 27 (HealthDay News) -- "Chemo brain," the name given to the mental fog and related memory problems that can occur during and after chemotherapy, may last for two decades after breast cancer treatment, new research suggests.

In the new study, 196 women with breast cancer who were treated with chemotherapy roughly 21 years earlier performed worse on tests of their memory, processing speed and other thinking ("cognitive") skills when compared to their counterparts who had never been diagnosed with cancer.

Participants had all been treated for breast cancer with a chemotherapy combination that included the drugs cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and 5-fluorouracil between 1976 and 1995. This regimen was considered the standard of care for breast cancer worldwide from the 1970s to the 1990s and was received by thousands of women during this time. Women in the study were aged 50 to 80.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to suggest that subtle cognitive deficits may be among the long-term effects of chemotherapy, especially of the earlier regimens," study author Sanne Schagen, a group leader at the department of psychosocial research and epidemiology at the Netherlands Cancer Institute/Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital in Amsterdam, said in a news release from the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

She added that while the results don't suggest that breast cancer survivors need to be watched more closely for memory and thinking problems, they could guide referrals to support services as needed.

In general, women who received this chemotherapy regimen had lower scores on tests of their ability to recall words, information-processing speed, and coordination of thinking and hand movement, such as putting pegs in a board, than women who did not. The results on these tests were similar to those seen among people who had just completed chemotherapy, and th
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