11 posts in the category “Cancer”

“Chemo brain”: 3 surprising findings from recent research

Posted 1 month ago by

“Chemo brain” — the term for cognitive problems associated with chemotherapy treatment — appears to be very common, but doctors only started paying attention to it in the late 1990s.

2012 study that finally helped elevate chemo brain as a serious and widespread issue estimated that up to 75% of breast cancer survivors experience “cognitive deficits—problems with attention, concentration, planning, and working memory—from 6 months to 20 years after receiving chemotherapy.” Read on to learn some of the surprising findings from recent research on chemo brain.

1. Treatments beyond chemotherapy may cause chemo brain. “From many sources of data, we now know patients experience impairments not just after chemo, but after surgery, radiation, hormonal therapy,” and other treatments, oncologist Patricia Ganz, M.D., tells the National Cancer Institute. Immunotherapy may also cause cognitive dysfunction, according to MD Anderson Cancer Center.

2. Cancer itself may cause some chemo brain. A 2015 study found that people with lung cancer have mental impairments and changes in their brain even before treatment. For example, patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) had “verbal memory deficits” (e.g., trouble remembering words) and damage to the brain’s white matter (which some consider “the subway of the brain”). A 2017 animal study also showed that cancer itself can impact the brain, possibly because the body’s response to cancer can cause inflammation to the brain.

3. Chemo brain is often so subtle that standard tests can’t detect it. Just last month (June 2018), researchers issued a call for a new clinical approach to chemo brain, as reported in the Los Angeles Times. One of the main problems? Experts have mainly tried to assess chemo brain using neurological tests geared toward those with severe brain injuries, Alzheimer’s disease or stroke. But tests like those are “unlikely to detect, measure or explain the often subtle impairments that, for many cancer survivors, make it hard to return to a mentally demanding job, continue driving or lay plans for the future,” The Times notes.

Can anything help with chemo brain symptoms?

“Stimulants or brain training may help some patients,” the team at MD Anderson says. “Cognitive strategies or healthy lifestyle changes, like improved sleep quality and exercise, can also help.” Talk with your care team and ask for a referral to a neuropsychology specialist. (If you’ve tried any treatments or therapies for cognitive symptoms, please make a comment below.)

Join PatientsLikeMe today to find dozens of conversations about chemo brain and see the most commonly reported side effects of chemotherapy.

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Health news: What’s making headlines in June

Posted 2 months ago by

In case you missed it, check out this round up of some of the stories making headlines in June…

 

Parkinson’s disease:
  • Apple Watch will now be able to monitor PD: Tech developers announced this month that the Apple Watch will now be able to track two common PD symptoms — tremors and dyskinesia — and map them out in graphs to help doctors (and patients) with PD monitoring. Fill me in.
  • Study points to an “overlooked driver” of PD — Bacteriophages: What are bacteriophages or “phages”? Viruses that infect bacteria. New research shows that people with PD may have an overabundance of phages that kill “good” bacteria in the microbiome or gut, which could mean a new target for treating PD. More on the study.
Lupus:
  • How common are cognitive issues with lupus? Very. A doctor specializing in lupus research says nearly 40% of people with SLE have some level of cognitive impairment, such as trouble with attention, recall and concentration — so doctors should monitor it early and often. Read his Q&A.
Lung cancer:
  • Drug may replace chemo as initial treatment for many with NSCLC: New clinical trial results of the immunotherapy drug Keytruda show that it can be a more effective first treatment than chemotherapy for many patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) — even those with low levels of the PD-L1 gene mutation. Tell me more.

 

MS:
  • VETS Act expands access to telehealth: Late last month, Congress passed the VETS Act, expanding access to telehealth for more than 20 million veterans, including 30,000 living with MS. Get the full story.
  • Now enrolling: Nationwide clinical trial: Researchers at John’s Hopkins University are seeking newly diagnosed or untreated patients living with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) to participate in a study to help inform treatment decisions. Learn more.

 

 

Mental Health:
  • Practices for overcoming trauma: Results from a new study found that women who combined meditation with aerobic exercise had far fewer trauma-related thoughts, and saw an uptick in feelings of self worth. Get the full story
  • When antidepressants won’t work: “I knew it wasn’t going to be a magical Cinderella transformation, but I definitely feel like a newer person.” Read one man’s experience with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) after first-line treatments didn’t work. More info.

 

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