Chemo Brain is Real

Posted By on June 15th, 2011 at 9:00 am | 220 comments.

Written by Barbara Good, Ph.D.

For years, women in cancer support groups and those discussing their treatment with sympathetic friends or relatives have referred to a syndrome they call “chemo brain,” the somewhat amusing-sounding but all too real experience of many who undergo chemotherapy in the course of cancer treatment. At times complaints from cancer patients about forgetfulness, lack of coordination, or the inability to find certain words during speech have been looked at by some in the medical profession as a result of the stress of cancer treatment, or fatigue, or both.

A recent study at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle now lends credence to the idea that the symptoms cancer patients describe appear, in fact, to come at least in part from cancer treatment and that they may last for periods up to five years or more. The patients examined had undergone chemotherapy as part of bone marrow or stem cell transplants to treat blood cancers, but the researchers believe their findings to be applicable to breast cancer patients and to those who have undergone chemotherapy for other types of cancer. Verbal memory and motor problems lasted longer than five years in some of the patients examined, but information processing, multitasking, and executive function tasks seemed to be regained within five years.

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