That is just one of the many interesting things I learned last night during the program "Am I Just Forgetful or is it Chemobrain? A Discussion of Post-treatment Cognitive Changes" presented by Sheri Suozzo, RN at the Cancer Support Community - Central New Jersey. Sheri is an oncology nurse and shared information available on the Oncology Nurses Society website. Here are highlights from the talk and the handout she provided:
- "Chemobrain" is the laypersons term for cognitive impairment. Cognitive impairment (CI) is defined as "a decline in function in single or multiple domains of brain function, such as attention and concentration, executive function, information processing, languag, visuospatial skill, psychomotor ability learning and memory".
- 11-80% of cancer patients in treatment report incidences of CI.
- 20-30% of cancer survivors report CI well after treatment is completed. Many patients see an improvement in CI approximately 12 months after finishing treatment.
- There is no standard neurological test for CI in cancer survivors.
- There is no standard treatment for CI in cancer survivors.
- The mechanisms of CI include neurotoxic effects, oxidative stress, hormonal changes & immune dysregulation.
- Anemia, fatigue, sleep disturbancce, anxiety, depression have been correlated with CI.
- Although the effectiveness has not been proven there has been some use of ADHD drugs and Aricept ( used for Alzheimers) to treat CI in cancer survivors.
- The use of Erythropoietin -stimulating drugs (Procrit) is not recommended due to cardiovascular issues.
- Exercise, spending time outside and vitamin E has been helpful for some survivors.
- While some cognitive training programs and games like Sudoku®, Words with Friends®, word search games, memory games , Luminosity Brain Trainer , etc have been found to improve cognitive function, other studies did not show an improvement. ( I think I will keep playing those games on my I-Phone. )
Although I am not thrilled that I am 3+ years out of treatment and still experiencing "chemobrain" , I am glad that cognitive impairment in cancer survivors is being recognizing and research to understand the mechanisms and treatment are taking place.
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Every Day is a Blessing!