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'Chemo Brain' May Occur Before Treatment Even Starts
Date:12/7/2012

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- So-called "chemo brain" -- problems with thinking, concentrating and remembering that are associated with receiving chemotherapy -- may actually start to occur before the treatment is initiated, a small new study suggests.

In the new study, pre-treatment mental fog and fatigue were associated with thought-process problems (also called "cognitive" problems) that have previously been assumed to be directly related to the treatment.

"It's hard not to believe that chemotherapy could damage the brain, but we found evidence of the problems occurring in many women even before the therapy had begun," said lead author Bernadine Cimprich, associate professor emerita at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.

Cimprich said previous studies on the mental effects of chemotherapy have offered a range of conclusions, but she felt none fully answered key questions about the cause of the mental fog and fatigue, and the timing of those problems. She and her colleagues wondered whether the stress of anticipating chemotherapy and treatment could be responsible for at least a portion of the chemo-brain experience.

"Our study isn't saying chemo brain doesn't exist but that there are other factors that may make women vulnerable to it and may compound the impact," Cimprich said.

The research was scheduled to be presented Friday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Chemotherapy involves treatment with cancer-killing drugs that may be given intravenously (injected into a vein) or by mouth. It is given in cycles, with each period of treatment followed by a recovery period, and treatment usually lasts for several months.

The researchers tested 97 women, including 65
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