An interesting article, titled “Chemo Brain’ : an imprecise term for a complex phenomenon” was just published on-line. The article gets right to the point from the start :
‘The various cognitive impairments collectively known as “chemo brain” can cause anxiety, frustration and difficulty with everyday tasks for cancer survivors. Despite what the term suggests, “chemo brain” and its associated mental changes are not necessarily related only to chemotherapy. Other cancer treatments also can have short- or long-term cognitive implications. Additionally, some changes in cognitive function may be associated with the cancer itself.’
Most of us multiple myeloma patients, will be familiar with ‘anxiety, frustration, difficulty with everyday tasks’ especially during the early months of our treatment and in the periods post-stem cell transplant. It takes awhile to get us back to the point where we can more than one thing at a time. The whole article is about 7 pages long but quite easy to read and I highly recommend you read it. I am just going to lift some snippets here that are more specific to us, myeloma/blood cancer patients.
One of the authors states : “One of the pieces of this puzzle [seeking to identify the mechanisms behind cancer-related cognitive decline, as well as ways to manage them] is that some people appear to be more affected than others. So, part of the challenge is in identifying the underlying mechanisms and subgroups of patients who are impacted.”
Other physicians added :
And it is not just chemotherapy that contributes to “chemo brain”.
When it comes to older patients, “it may be difficult for clinicians to differentiate cognitive decline linked to cancer from early dementia or age-related memory loss. Additionally, these patients may be taking medications for comorbid conditions that may compromise their cognitive function. In these cases, a comprehensive geriatric assessment would be required, ideally by a geriatric oncologist.”
Also, worth noting is this comment : “It is important to rule out other possible explanations for cognitive issues. He said conditions such as hypothyroidism, anemia, electrolyte imbalance, sleep apnea, depression or B12 deficiency may account for cognitive issues.”
When it comes to treating “chemo brain” you may wish to be aware of the following observations made by several of the authors quoted in the article :
about the author
I am a patient diagnosed in 2014 with primary plasma cell leukemia (pPCL), a rare and aggressive variant of multiple myeloma and have been very fortunate to find treatment at the division of Cellular Therapy at the Duke University Cancer Institute. My wife, Vicki, and I have two adult children and a grandson who is the ‘light of my life’. Successful treatment has allowed Vicki and I to do what we love best : traveling the world, albeit it with some extra precautions to keep infections away. My career in the pharmaceutical industry has given me insights that I am currently putting to use as an advocate to lower drug pricing, especially prices for anti-cancer drugs and, very specifically, CAR-T therapies, with recent contributions posted by Health affairs, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
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