Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer & Memory Loss

 

Welcome to Weekly Health Update



“A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers” 

CHEMOTHERAPY FOR BREAST CANCER & MEMORY LOSS

“Chemo Brain” is a term often used by breast cancer patients to describe the decreased memory, and other cognitive dysfunctions, associated with chemotherapy for this common form of cancer.  However, there has been very little prospective, objective clinical research into this phenomenon.  Furthermore, what little research that has been done in this area, to date, has primarily focused upon subjective self-assessments, by breast cancer patients, of their own level of cognitive function following chemotherapy.  Moreover, until recently, the complaints of breast cancer patients regarding their self-perceived memory loss following chemotherapy were often dismissed by many physicians. 

Now, a newly published prospective clinical research study from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center suggests that physicians may have vastly underestimated the frequency, severity, and duration of cognitive dysfunction following standard breast cancer chemotherapy.  This clinical study, which appears in the current issue of the journal Cancer, prospectively enrolled 42 women with newly diagnosed breast cancer.  All of these women then underwent standardized neuropsychological evaluation before, during, and after chemotherapy.  Importantly, this study not only tested these breast cancer patients in the early period after they completed their chemotherapy, but also one year after their chemotherapy had ended.  The findings from this small study strikingly illustrate just how common, and how enduring, memory loss and other forms of cognitive dysfunction are following chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Prior to beginning chemotherapy, 21 percent of these patients had some detectable degree of cognitive dysfunction.  By the end of their chemotherapy treatments, a whopping 65 percent of these 42 patients displayed measurable declines in memory function, organizational ability, and cognitive processing speed.  One year later, 61 percent of these women continued to display measurable declines in cognitive function.  Worse yet, among this group of women with persistent cognitive dysfunction one year after completion of their chemotherapy, 71 percent continued to display progressively worsening of cognitive function when compared to their level of function immediately after finishing chemotherapy.  Finally, the remaining 29 percent of this group of women with long-term evidence of cognitive dysfunction actually displayed a delayed-onset of cognitive decline when they were tested one year after chemotherapy (i.e., when compared to the results of their neuropsychological testing immediately after chemotherapy).

Although this clinical research study enrolled a small cohort of patients, its prospective nature, and its use of validated neuropsychological tests, make it a powerful research study for its size.  The findings of this study also fit well with previous laboratory research studies that have shown both acute and delayed changes in the actual structure of the brains of animals treated, proportionately, with the same chemotherapy drugs commonly used to treat breast cancer in humans.  Whether or not the significant declines in cognitive function that were observed, one year after chemotherapy in the 61 percent of women who participated in this study, will eventually stabilize, improve or worsen is unknown at this time.  Longer follow-up of these 42 breast cancer patients will have to be performed to answer this important question.  However, this small prospective study clearly indicates that the majority of women who undergo standard chemotherapy for breast cancer appear to experience significant and prolonged declines in their level of cognitive function, including memory loss, decreased organizational skills, and a general slowing of their cognitive processing speed, and that these adverse changes persist for at least a year after completion of chemotherapy.

The findings of this study should spur additional research into the precise cause(s) of this chemotherapy-associated impairment in cognitive function, as well as strategies to reduce the severity and duration of these adverse health effects following chemotherapy for breast cancer.  Meanwhile, it is important for me to stress that chemotherapy unquestionably extends survival, and saves lives, among women who are appropriately advised to undergo such treatment for breast cancer.  In my opinion, no patient should read this column, and then go on to refuse chemotherapy that has been appropriately recommended because of the findings of this clinical research study.  

 

To learn more about the prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, look for the publication of my new landmark evidence-based book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” in the summer of this year.



Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, a professor of surgery, a cancer researcher, an oncology consultant, and a widely published author



For a different perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-Tdv7XW0qg



I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would like to take this opportunity to thank the nearly 120,000 new and returning readers who visited our premier global health information website last month.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can. 


In view of the extreme devastation and human misery brought about in Haiti and Chile by the recent earthquakes, Weekly Health Update asks our tens of thousands of caring readers to give generously to established charities that are currently working in those countries to assist the injured, the ill, and the homeless.  There are many such legitimate charities, including the following two:

http://www.redcross.org/

http://www.imcworldwide.org/haiti 


 

Bookmark and Share


Post to Twitter

Enter Google AdSense Code Here

Comments

19 Comments on "Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer & Memory Loss"

  1. Soy Foods & Stomach Cancer Risk | MND: Your Daily Dose of Counter-Theory on Sun, 9th May 2010 11:55 am 

    [...] A. Wascher, MD, FACS All rights reserved Dr. Wascher’s Archives: 5-2-2010:    Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer & Memory Loss 4-25-2010:   Smoking, Teenagers & Tobacco Company Advertising 4-18-2010:   Coffee [...]

  2. Doctorwascher on Sun, 16th May 2010 12:41 pm 

    Coffee & the Risk of Death from Heart Disease & Cancer…

    Weekly Health Update:

    Coffee & the Risk of Death from Heart Disease & Cancer

    “A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers…”

    By, Robert A. Wascher, MD, FACS

  3. Coffee & the Risk of Death from Heart Disease & Cancer | MND: Your Daily Dose of Counter-Theory on Mon, 17th May 2010 9:09 am 

    [...] 5-2-2010:    Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer & Memory Loss [...]

  4. Soy & Curcumin Reduce Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) | MND: Your Daily Dose of Counter-Theory on Sun, 23rd May 2010 2:59 pm 

    [...] 5-2-2010: Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer & Memory Loss [...]

  5. Doctorwascher on Sun, 13th Jun 2010 11:41 am 

    Diacylglycerol (Diglyceride) Oil Reduces Obesity…

    Weekly Health Update:

    Diacylglycerol (Diglyceride) Oil Reduces Obesity

    “A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers…”

    By, Robert A. Wascher, MD, FACS

    Updated: 06/13/201…

  6. Doctorwascher on Sun, 20th Jun 2010 10:31 am 

    Green Tea Epicatechin Reduces Heart Damage & CHF…

    Weekly Health Update:

    Green Tea Epicatechin Reduces Heart Damage & CHF

    “A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers…”

    By, Robert A. Wascher, MD, FACS

    Update…

  7. XtremeNO Review on Fri, 23rd Jul 2010 1:43 pm 

    Hi there I just wanted to drop in and say thank you for the insight in this post. I somehow stumbled on your blog while searching health and fitness related stuff in Yahoo… guess I got kind of sidetracked! Well, I’m off and many thanks for expressing your thinkings. I’ll be back again at some point to see your new articles. See you later!

  8. Webwatcher on Sat, 5th Feb 2011 4:11 am 

    I am wondering how I can be notified whenever a new post has been made.

  9. Rooibos on Sun, 20th Mar 2011 12:06 pm 

    Thanks for sharing, I like this blog!

  10. Tyson on Sat, 26th Mar 2011 2:05 am 

    great post thanks

  11. Hipolito Wiseman on Wed, 1st Jun 2011 8:38 am 

    Interesting article.Thank you !!!

  12. Joel Brower on Wed, 1st Jun 2011 12:39 pm 

    Great story once more! Thank you

  13. Stephanie Muschamp on Sat, 4th Jun 2011 11:13 pm 

    Excellent read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing some research on that. And he just bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch!

  14. Macheal on Thu, 9th Jun 2011 12:10 pm 

    Hi! I just want to tell you that I found this blog really useful to me. I will visit this blog regularly to read more. Thanks.

  15. Dalton Gasbarro on Wed, 26th Oct 2011 1:32 pm 

    Excellent content and easy to understand story. How do I go about getting agreement to post part of the article in my upcoming newsletter? Offering proper credit to you the writer and website link to the site will not be a problem.

  16. Sid Jarver on Fri, 23rd Dec 2011 8:03 am 

    Awesome post! I will keep an on eye on your blog.

  17. Anonymous on Wed, 15th Feb 2012 12:13 pm 

    Hi, excellent weblog. I like your design. I recently got carried out with cosmetic classes and wish to begin my web site. Thank you for the amazing write-up!

  18. Dave on Tue, 20th Mar 2012 4:28 pm 

    thank you for this post, I am a big fan of this site.

  19. Sailer on Sat, 28th Apr 2012 8:30 pm 

    You made some decent points there. I looked on the internet for the issue and found most individuals will go along with with your website.

Better Tag Cloud