Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Coping With ‘Chemo Brain’

Date:
July 10, 2008
Source:
University of Michigan Health System
Summary:
While Maria Lyzen was being treated for breast cancer, she found she couldn't concentrate or decipher information, and just functioning day-to-day at home was difficult. "I didn't know if it was a reaction to the trauma of being told that I had breast cancer. I was in my late 50's -- was it the beginning of an aging symptom? Or was it the drugs that I was getting in terms of my chemotherapy? My doctor ordered a brain scan, and there was nothing unusual there, and I said, 'But there is something wrong with me,'" Lyzen says.

A patient is positioned to receive an fMRI, which will test brain function while the person performs a mental task.
Credit: University of Michigan Health System

While Maria Lyzen was being treated for breast cancer, she found she couldn’t concentrate or decipher information, and just functioning day-to-day at home was difficult.

“I didn’t know if it was a reaction to the trauma of being told that I had breast cancer. I was in my late 50’s – was it the beginning of an aging symptom? Or was it the drugs that I was getting in terms of my chemotherapy? My doctor ordered a brain scan, and there was nothing unusual there, and I said, ‘But there is something wrong with me,’” Lyzen says.

Researchers are only beginning to understand what Lyzen and others experience during cancer treatment. Patients often call this phenomenon – which includes loss of concentration, difficulty remembering and difficulty thinking clearly – “chemo brain.” Now, researchers are beginning to study this phenomenon and all the possible factors that contribute to it.

“Women have complained for a long time now about cognitive changes that have occurred during the time that they’ve been treated for breast cancer. We now have some research that shows cognitive changes can and do occur during chemotherapy and also may persist for several years following the completion of chemotherapy,” says Bernadine Cimprich, Ph.D., R.N., associate professor of nursing at the U-M School of Nursing and a researcher at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Cimprich has begun a new study to look at problems of attention and working memory, including what causes these cognitive impairments, what effect chemotherapy has on these brain functions and how much other influences may play a role.

The researchers will use functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, which can test brain function while a person performs a mental task. Breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy will be compared with patients not receiving chemotherapy and with healthy women who do not have breast cancer.

“The first step is to see whether there are changes in brain function related to adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer. Chemotherapy is one of the possible sources of these kinds of cognitive changes. But actually, there are other possible reasons that a woman might experience cognitive problems,” Cimprich says.

The traumatic impact of a cancer diagnosis and making important life-or-death decisions could affect cognitive function even before cancer treatment begins. The researchers also suspect that since not all women report experiencing chemo brain, some women may have a genetic susceptibility that makes them more sensitive to the effects of chemotherapy, including cognitive issues.

“Our ultimate goal and hope for this research is that it will give us information that will be a kind of basis or foundation for designing care or interventions so we can help women from the very beginning of their treatment to maintain their cognitive function and to conserve cognitive effort so that they can function at the highest possible level over the course of their breast cancer treatment and beyond,” Cimprich says.

Lyzen says she regained much of her concentration since having completed breast cancer treatment two years ago. But, while concentration is much more difficult for her now, she’s happy to know that researchers are taking the chemo brain phenomenon seriously.

“Whether people are having troubles because they’re just having a traumatic response or whether it’s chemo brain or whether it is because they are aging, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they are getting the support and the acknowledgement that they are being heard. And that is very important not to be dismissed,” Lyzen says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Michigan Health System. "Coping With ‘Chemo Brain’." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080707165544.htm>.
University of Michigan Health System. (2008, July 10). Coping With ‘Chemo Brain’. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080707165544.htm
University of Michigan Health System. "Coping With ‘Chemo Brain’." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080707165544.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) Contains graphic content. He's only 17. But Johntrell Bowles has wanted to be a doctor from a young age, despite the odds against him. He was recently the youngest participant in a cadaver program at the Indiana University NW medical school. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?

American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) It's unclear whether the American Ebola patients' recoveries can be attributed to an experimental drug or early detection and good medical care. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins