CogniFit's Science blog: The Unsettling Truth Behind The Life Of Chemo Brain

The Unsettling Truth Behind The Life Of Chemo Brain

New research delivers news that no cancer patient or survivor wants to hear; chemo brain may stick around longer than anyone wants to endure. That foggy thinking and forgetfulness you most likely have experienced following treatment can last as long as five years or more.

A cancer research center in Seattle found the results based off of 92 cancer patients. The study shows that the cognitive decline that often follow treatments are longer-lasting than what has frequently been believed.

Chemo brain is something that more cancer patients experience than not. Many complain about thinking and memory problems, but doctors have often dismissed the idea of this being connected to treatment. Doctors will sometimes put the blame on fatigue of illness or normal aging.

But following this study, there is clear evidence that it does exist and sadly sticks around for a lengthy period of time. Surviving cancer is a victory of its own, but the recovery from cancer treatment is no longer believed to be a one-year ordeal. Most patients can expect anywhere from a two to five-year process.

While it is frustrating to hear and the last thing someone wants to go through after already suffering from countless treatments, patients need to recognize the extent to which cells in the body have been compromised. The troubling part is understanding that it is not only from the cancer, but from the treatment as well.

In the study, the 92 patients all underwent chemotherapy for bone marrow or stem cell transplants to treat blood cancers. There is of course the fact that difference cancers and treatments vary. But researchers believe the finding that cognitive recovery can take even longer than five years is likely to apply to breast cancer patients and others who have undergone chemotherapy for other types of cancer.

Various tests were conducted within the study, which found that most cancer survivors suffered cognitive problems that were largely temporary. However, it was that five year period or longer that is disturbing. The patient recovery that has become known as chemo brain typically followed a bell curve as some improved after a year and others two several years.

If there is any bright side to the finding it is that information processing, multitasking and executive function skills all seem to recover prior to the five year mark. Many complain about word finding and the difficulty of remembering certain words. While it does take longer than a year, this cognitive function does recover according to the study.

The parts of the brain that continued to struggle after five years is verbal memory and motor skill problems. It is nice for some to finally get the recognition they have been looking for that chemo brain is real. But the sad truth is it may stick around far longer than once hoped.We believe that by training your brain and cognitive abilities with different activities, it might be possible to improve your cognitive recovery faster.