Thursday, November 30, 2006

Chemobrain is real:

Researches have found out that the phenomenon of 'chemobrain'- a feeling reported by cancer patients of forgetfulness, confusion and disorientation after chemotherapy is not really imagined by the ailing patient. A team of medical investigators in Japan found the condition indeed is genuine and substantially affects cognition.

"The phrase "chemo brain" has come to be used by cancer survivors to describe
changes in memory, attention, concentration, and abilities to perform various
mental tasks that are associated with receiving chemotherapy treatments for
cancer. In neurology the effects are referred to as cognitive deficits or
declining neuropsychological functioning."

They have also found out the structural changes discovered are essentially reversible after some period of time. This means that after certain forms of chemotherapy, some patients could go into a "chemobrain type syndrome mode" for some time and then 'cognitively return' back to normal in time.

"They found that at one-year, patients treated with chemotherapy had smaller
volumes in cognitively sensitive areas, such as the prefrontal, parahippocampal
and cingulate gyri, and precuneus regions. However, at three-years post-surgery
there was no volume differences. That there were no differences between cancer
patients and healthy controls at any time point demonstrates that there is no
observable cancer-effect in cognitive deficits."

There is a growing hypothesis that the powerful drugs used to fight cancer are capable of diffusing through the blood-brain barrier, a protective sheath that keeps most harmful substances out of the brain. Many chemo drugs are made up of molecules small enough to breach the barrier it is thought. The publishers of this study have not made it clear that the breach of the blood-brain barrier could be the reason behind the structural changes seen in brain MRI before and after chemotherapy.

The study is published in the 1 January 2007 issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society. The following link give you a little more detail.

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