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Chemo Brain Scientifically Proven

Ivanhoe Newswire

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- It's not just your imagination. Chemotherapy really can cause symptoms like mental fog and forgetfulness.

A new study from UCLA reveals chemotherapy changes the brain's metabolism and blood flow -- changes that can last at least 10 years after treatment.

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"People with chemo brain often can't focus, remember things or multitask the way they did before chemotherapy," reports lead author Daniel Silverman, M.D., of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Our study demonstrates for the first time that patients suffering from these cognitive symptoms have specific alterations in brain metabolism."

Researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) to scan the brains of women who had surgery to remove breast tumors five years to 10 years earlier. Some of the patients had chemotherapy around the time of their surgeries to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.

The study participants did a series of short-term memory exercises. During the tests researchers measured blood flow to their brains and then ran a scan of the patients' resting brain metabolism after they were done.

The PET scan showed a link between chemo-brain symptoms and lower metabolism in specific areas of the brain. The lower the patient's resting brain metabolism rates were, the harder it was to perform the memory test. Results also show blood flow to some areas of the brain spiked as the chemotherapy patients performed the memory tests, which means their brains were working harder to recall information than participants who did not have chemotherapy.

Doctors don't know exactly what mechanisms cause chemo brain. More studies are needed to find out how the damage happens and whether changes in chemotherapy drugs could prevent it.

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SOURCE: Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, published online Oct. 5, 2006

Last updated 10/5/2006

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Nov 14, 2006
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