Chemotherapy Affects Memory And Brain Performance Of Patients Who Survived Cancer

The side-effects of chemotherapy are quite unpleasant to tolerate. While patients have to struggle with the disease, they also have to struggle with the treatment. One of the side effects entails decreased cognitive abilities – a new study has finally confirmed what was long suspected by experts.

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The most common method of treatment for cancer is chemotherapy. While scientists are working on cures for cancer, the patients still have to rely on chemotherapy, however adverse the side-effects might be. Yes, the said treatment comes with unpleasant side-effects. It kills cancer cells, but, at the same time, it also kills other healthy cells. It causes nausea and vomitting, loss of appetite, and the list goes on and on. Recently, it has been discovered that it might also impact directly onto the memory of young cancer patients, and their brain function as well. Cancer patients who have survived the disease often complain of the brain fuzziness that they experience after the treatment with chemotherapy – what has been termed as the ‘chemo brain’. But, so far, the happenings in the brain causing this mental fog were unknown.

Previously, scientists have observed visible changes brought to the brain set-up by chemotherapy. Following chemotherapy, brain function was found to be modified, whereby brain metabolism was altered as well. Brain metabolism experienced considerable declines after the patients would be subjected to chemotherapy: areas of the brain associated with planning and prioritising were found to be making less energy use after the therapy. Now, researchers have found that the cognitive abilities of young cancer patients are affected as well following sessions of chemotherapy. The patients performed quite poorly in cognitive tests – this happened for those who have been undergoing chemotherapy five years back and more. More than 50 % of the patients who had participated in the study scored as much as the bottom 10 % of the common population for spatial abilities, while for long-term verbal memory, 25 % of the patients performed as poorly as the bottom 10 %.

After battling with the disease, the battle is still not over…

The results suggest that teenagers of 16, and even adults up to 50 years old have learning and memory problems after having gone through chemotherapy. How long do these post-chemotherapy effects last? The researchers state that more studies have to be undertaken to find out about the reach of these negative impacts.

Cancer experts had since long thought that exposure to the treatment would affect the patients in the long run, such that they find great difficulties in adapting back to their studies once they are done with the treatment and return to normal life. This study has only confirmed what was already being suspected by experts.

Now that the problem has been spotted, it is crucial to have it solved

Cancer patients have, in the past, complained of this phenomenon as well – while they might have been brilliant students before the disease, they perform really poorly when they get back to their studies after having done chemotherapy. Studying itself becomes a challenging task. This affects a great number of people. It is imperative to find a solution to this problem, as the last years have witnessed more and more cancer cases. The quality of life of the patients who have survived the disease have to be enhanced; else, even if they have beaten the disease, they would still live under stressful conditions, since so many aspects of their lives would be affected negatively because of the side effects their brains endured.

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