Finally, some hard evidence of what we feel with chemo brain (see also ‘Chemo Brain’ After Breast Cancer Backed by Study). Encouragingly, according to the study (focussed on breast cancer patients), chemo brain eventually reverses itself. This may be less true for some of the more aggressive chemo, but in the end, we all develop coping and compensating mechanisms.
“We’re seeing changes of metabolism in areas of the brain that control problem solving, organizing daily events, sequencing, as well as long term memory,” Lagos said. “These seem to be the areas that chemo patients are complaining about. They have this haziness and can’t make plans or carry out simple tasks throughout their day. This corresponds to what we’re seeing in the research.”
While the data confirms chemo brain to be a real issue, the researchers also found the condition to be temporary – as the effected brain regions eventually regained their metabolism. Now armed with proof of chemo brain’s existence, Lagos hopes to expand her research to a national level, as well as prompt treatments to help those with the bizarre memory condition.
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of chemo brain can include anything from difficulty multitasking and learning new skills to trouble with recalling conversations and even recalling words. Lagos suggested that group therapy and help from peers can resolve some of these issues.
“Members of [the patient’s] family or support groups can give these patients lists of things to do when they wake up in the morning, that way they have the plan for the day,” Lagos said of one treatment option. “They don’t have to make the plan themselves. They have no problem doing the tasks, it’s making the list – they can’t get past that step.”
As a list person, that has always been part of my daily routine, reinforced even more after my treatment.