I was interested in this article about Chemo-brain that appeared in USA Today on Thursday. A recent study of breast-cancer survivors suggests that that chemotherapy changes the brain’s frontal cortex functions, and that memory loss associated with chemo lasts much longer than originally thought—a decade or longer.
No one seems worried that any patients will come back saying that this was an undisclosed side effect of treatment. My guess is that if you do chemotherapy you sign some piece of paper acknowledging that pretty much anything can happen.
While chemotherapy used to be prescribed mainly in situations where cancer had already spread to other parts of the body, it is now standard for patients who have had surgery, even if there is no evidence of other cancer, in order to lower the risk of recurrence.
Earlier this year, this study came out, indicating that walking one to three hours a week after a breast cancer diagnosis can improve survival rates by 20-50%. After the study was published, a friend with breast cancer joked, “Let’s see, six months of chemo therapy only raises my chances by 7%, maybe I should just walk instead.”
The question that went through my mind when she said this was, “Why is that a joke?”
I’ll leave you with this little upbeat sidebar to the USA Today article. I’ve copied and pasted below. Now is it just me, or are these steps to “Improve Concentration” actually just steps to “Compensate for the fact that you have shitty concentration”?
Cancer survivors and others with mild memory problems can take steps to improve their concentration:
* Make lists of medication schedules and things to buy. Jot down where you parked your car.
* Leave messages on your answering machine to remind yourself of something crucial.
* Use a personal organizer to keep track of day-to-day tasks.
(Source: Ellen Coleman, associate executive director of New York-based CancerCare)