6 posts tagged “chemotherapy”

“Chemo brain”: 3 surprising findings from recent research

Posted 3 months 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.)

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What’s in your “chemo bag”? Gearing up for lung cancer treatment

Posted 5 months ago by

Chemotherapy is one of the most common treatments for lung cancer, so the community on PatientsLikeMe is chatting about what’s helpful to pack in a bag for chemo appointments (join PatientsLikeMe to take part in this lung cancer forum discussion).

Everyone’s experiences, side effects and preferences are different, but here are some items that people who’ve had chemotherapy say they’ve brought with them:

  • Sweatshirt and other comfy layers, in case it’s cold in the clinic (tip: a v-neck shirt and a hoodie with a zipper can offer easier access, if you have a central line or port
  • Fuzzy socks and/or close-toed shoes
  • A favorite blanket and pillow from home — although the clinic probably has these on hand, it can be nice to have your own
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste, in case you get a bad taste in your mouth (sometimes called “metal mouth”)
  • Anti-nausea aids, like ginger candy or “pregnancy lollipops”
  • Bottled water or whatever you like to drink (some people say iced green tea settles their stomach) — to help you stay hydrated and prevent dry mouth
  • Hard candy to suck on (fruity, minty or whatever you like)
  • Snacks to graze on (some clinics provide snacks, while others just provide water and coffee)… food is fine, as long as your care team hasn’t told you to fast for some reason, such as a CT scan
  • Lip balm to prevent chapped lips and mouth sores
  • Laptop, tablet or other mobile device, complete with earbuds and some entertainment (shows, movies, music, apps, or podcasts) downloaded in advance, just in case there’s not a good Wi-Fi connection available
  • A book or magazine (some people don’t feel well while looking at screens, so it’s nice to have printed copies on hand)
  • Adult coloring books and colored pencils for relaxation/entertainment
  • A journal, to help you write out some of your feelings (bonus tip: Michigan Medicine offers free guided-imagery/meditation MP3s to help people manage the emotions that come with cancer treatment)
  • A close friend or family member — someone you feel very comfortable with (and who can drive you when you’re tired after your treatments)

Learn more from these resources:

Have any ideas to add? Or just getting started with treatment? Become a member to connect with 9,000+ people with lung cancer and talk about topics like this.

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