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Making Your Way Through the Fog of Chemotherapy
Date:5/28/2010

Though accepted as real, 'chemo brain' still befuddles patients and researchers,,,,

FRIDAY, May 28 (HealthDay News) -- For many people with cancer, chemotherapy can be a lifeline to the future. And more aggressive, high-dose therapy has been shown to produce better results.

But there's a downside, too: Chemotherapy is linked to a mental fog called "chemo brain."

For years, people's complaints were dismissed as "all in your head," but that's no longer the case. It's now the topic of serious research, with investigators working hard to figure out why it happens and what can be done to help those who suffer from it.

Yet even with the added focus on chemo brain research, many doctors who care for cancer patients are either unaware of the phenomenon or don't think to discuss the possibility with their patients, said Saskia Subramanian, a research sociologist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has researched and published on chemo brain and wrote After the Cure: The Untold Stories of Breast Cancer Survivors.

She encourages patients to bring it up themselves, especially if they think they're experiencing it.

Among the symptoms:

  • Forgetting things that are usually easy to recall, such as names or words
  • Having problems concentrating
  • Having difficulty multi-tasking
  • Being slower at doing routine tasks

Exactly how many people develop chemo brain is unknown, agreed Subramanian and Christina Meyers, professor and chief of neuropsychology at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who has researched the condition for more than two decades.

"I would say more than half of the cancer patients in active treatment have some kind of symptomology" related to chemotherapy, Meyers said. "It could range from pretty mild to so severe that a person is unable to perform their normal activitie
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