2 posts tagged “treatment side effects”

“Chemo brain”: 3 surprising findings from recent research

Posted July 19th, 2018 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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Exciting New ALS Progression Chart Upgrades

Posted January 20th, 2010 by

Today, we’re announcing an exciting major upgrade to our PatientsLikeMe platform – new profile charts with significant functional improvements.

We started PatientsLikeMe with the idea that visualizing your condition and treatment history over time is a powerful way to understand the impact of your treatment choices and tell the story of your progress to other patients like you.  So, we designed the website with the profile charts as the centerpiece around which the rest of the site activity is organized.

Exciting New ALS Progression Chart Upgrades at PatientsLikeMe

The new profile charts, which we’re rolling out today in the ALS community, are designed to help you understand your own profile better and tell your story more effectively. Ultimately, these charts will help you answer the question: “Given my status, what is the best outcome I can expect to achieve, and how do I get there?”

Here are some of the functionality improvements the members of our ALS community will notice:

  • Charting of treatment side effects. If you have reported side effects for a treatment (by filling out a treatment evaluation), you can now see them plotted on your profile underneath that treatment.treatment_side_effects
  • Charting of treatments taken for a symptom. If you have reported that you are taking a treatment for a particular symptom (by filling out the information in the treatment’s “purpose” section), you will see those treatments on your profile plotted underneath the symptom.treatments_for_a_symptom
  • Customizable timescale. It is now easy to see your history over various time spans from 1 month all the way up to the entire history, all at the click of a button.
    timescale_switcher
  • General visualization clean-up. We made some design improvements to make the charts easier to read, such as the visualization of the treatment dosage changes.

What our members will notice more than any of these improvements is that when you interact with the chart (by zooming, opening/closing charts or side-effects, etc.), the interaction is smooth and instantaneous.  This is because we completely overhauled the technical platform we are using to display the charts. We think that this new technology will make it quicker and easier for us to give you even more chart innovations in the future.

(For the technically inclined, the old charts were static images with Ajax mouseovers and timeswitchers, and the new charts use Flash technology.  Note: All members must have the necessary Flash component installed to display the charts and, in some cases, a Flash installation upgrade may be necessary).

As with all our pilot programs, we will be testing it out to make sure it’s working well for our members. Once everything is working smoothly, we will roll the charts out to our other communities.  But even more exciting, we want to continue to add charting innovations, such as the ability to re-order treatments by purpose (treat my condition, treat a symptom, etc.) or overlay the profiles of other patients just like you.

These new charts are the first of many new exciting upgrades to the PatientsLikeMe platform this year. We add these enhancements because we want to stay true to our core values: putting “Patients First” and making changes that “Create Wow!” We hope you agree.

Do you have feedback on the charts or how we’re doing in general? Please let us know!

 

PatientsLikeMe member jcole