Thursday, October 13, 2011

Chemobrain - Brain Cancer And The Brain

Cancer is a terrible disease. Unfortunately, too many of us have seen families and friends pass away. We shall not discuss here the terrible and usual consequences cancer has on individuals. What I want to discuss here is something less well-known. The effects cancer and chemotherapy have on the brain. We usually see cancer as something that affects our bodies. However, there is more to it. The brain is not only impacted psychologically but also cognitively.

The term chemo brain is commonly associated with cancer survivors to describe thinking and memory problems which can occur as a result of chemo therapy or radiation therapy treatments. Chemo brain has also been referred to a chemo fog, cognitive changes or cognitive deterioration.

Although chemo brain is commonly used term, it is not fully understood nor completely accepted if the chemotherapy is really a cause of concentration and memory problems. It has also been shown that a number of cancer survivors with memory problems can still score well on cognitive tests.

But it is generally accepted that chemotherapy can create memory problems for patients and it can become a very frustrating and debilitating situation. However more study is required to better understand this problem. It is not altogether clear that a direct link is present at all.

But some typical signs and symptoms of the problem can include:

• Becoming highly disorganized

• Overall confusion in many types of situations

• Difficulty concentrating

• Difficulty in learning new tasks and skills

• Difficulty in multitasking

• Fatigue

• A feeling of mental fogginess

• A short attention span

• Short term memory problems

• Taking longer than usual to complete common tasks

• Trouble with verbal memory such as remembering a recent conversation

• Trouble with visual memory such as remembering a list of words or a visual image

The kinds of symptoms experienced can vary from patient to patient. But these symptoms are typically temporary and can subside within two years of completing the cancer treatment in most cases.

But while the chemo brain occur, it is not altogether clear how they do affect different symptoms. In some cases there may be external impacts due to lack of sleep, depression and other medications which may be taken at the same time.

It is very important for the patient and his/her doctor to understand any potential symptoms and try to make changes as necessary to continue with effective treatment while minimizing the impact to mental function.

This is the best way to help to balance the most effective treatment possible with the potential for full mental capacities and functioning.

Many studies and research have yet to be done. I believe that by consistently following an effective brain training program, you might improve some of the cognitive abilities that have been affected by chemotherapy. If this can help, it makes sense to try it.

Nathanael Eisenberg is the CEO of CogniFit, a company that develops software which measure and train cognitive abilities. We help people discover new insights about themselves and decide what to improve in their life.

The rapid growth of scientific knowledge around the brain creates new opportunities to help tackle some of the major challenges of the early part of the 21st century. Nathanael's goal is to participate in the search of some of these additional solutions.

By Nathanael_Eisenberg

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