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'Chemo Brain' After Breast Cancer Backed by Study

Women's symptoms were typically mild, review found, and strategies exist to manage them

FRIDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy are at risk for mild mental deficits known collectively as "chemo brain," a new study finds.

Researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., reviewed existing research on brain function ("cognitive" functioning) in breast cancer patients who received standard doses of chemotherapy for at least six months.

The analysis revealed that, on average, these patients had mild impairments in verbal abilities (such as difficulty choosing words) and visual-spatial abilities (such as getting lost more easily).

Mental functioning varied among the patients, with some reporting no problems and others reporting more severe or widespread impairments, the investigators found.

The study was published online Aug. 27 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

"Breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy who have subsequent cognitive deficits should be referred to a neuropsychologist for evaluation and management of the deficits," lead author Heather Jim, whose research focuses on the psychosocial and behavioral aspects of cancer survivorship, said in a Moffitt news release.

"Management usually involves developing an awareness of the situations in which their cognitive difficulties are likely to arise so that they can come up with strategies to compensate," she explained. "Research shows that such strategies can make a big difference in daily life when cognitive difficulties do arise."

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about chemo brain.


SOURCE: Moffitt Cancer Center, news release, Sept. 4, 2012

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