Monday 5 January 2015

Can Chemo Brain Be Prevented?

Occupational Therapists and Psychologists can use cancer rehabilitation strategies to improve cognition

Cognitive Training and Counseling Can Maximize Cognitive Efficiency and Reduce Symptoms of Chemo Brain

There is no known way to prevent chemo brain, but cancer rehabilitation goes a long way in treating it. Strategies used by an Occupational Therapist or Psychologist in cancer rehabilitation can be employed to improve cognition, cognitive efficiency, and quality of life for cancer survivors who have received chemotherapy. These cognitive issues should be assessed and addressed rather than ignored, as they may lead to feelings of lowered self esteem and depression.

Chemotherapy, Hormone Therapy and Radiation Therapy All Linked to Cognitive Changes After Cancer Treatment

A decade of study on chemo brain has linked cognitive changes with chemotherapy used in the treatment of breast cancer.  But what is less recognized is that hormone therapies and radiation can also cause chemo brain. According to a Medcape Oncology interview with Jeffrey S. Wefel, PhD, both brain structure and brain function are changed after chemotherapy treatment  is finished and can even impact survivors many years afterwards. In some cases the cognitive deficits not only remain but worsen, sometimes causing premature aging.

It is not yet known what the risk factors for chemo brain are, but current studies are being conducted with breast cancer patients over age 60 to try and identify whether cancer and cancer therapy augment age-related cognitive decline and speed up the aging process. Since most published studies have been done with breast cancer patients it is also unknown whether gender affects the development of chemo brain or not, but a small number of studies of men with prostate or testicular cancer have shown cognitive decline as a result of hormone therapy as well.

  • Studies using animal models and in vitro cell lines have clearly indicated that some chemotherapies have an effect on cognition-related cells
  • The medical community is now changing radiation therapy to preserve function
  • As well, biologically based interventions that may stop the cognitive dysfunction experienced by cancer survivors are now being studied

Healthcare Systems and the Global Economy Affected by the Magnitude of Chemo Brain

There is a lot of proof that the cognitive dysfunction related to cancer treatment has negative implications that start with limitations on survivors’ quality of life. As our population ages and the number of cancer survivors increase, the effects of chemo brain are also having a negative impact on global healthcare systems and the economy.

Read our other posts on Chemo Brain:

To find a Cancer Rehab Canada near you, visit the list of British ColumbiaSaskatchewanOntario, or Nova Scotia locations.

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