Study shows chemo-brain widespread in breast cancer patients

Study from the University of Rochester Wilmot Cancer Institute exposes the prevalence of ‘chemo-brain’ in breast cancer patients. Rhoda Baer/National Cancer Institute

Researchers at the University of Rochester’s Wilmot Cancer Institute have conducted the largest study to date on the causes of chemo-brain in women with breast cancer.

Chemo-brain is the term used to describe cancer-related cognitive impairment such as memory loss, attention problems and difficulty processing information. The condition is prevalent in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

The study compared cognitive difficulties among 581 breast cancer patients treated in the United States to 364 healthy people, all with a mean age of 53.

Researchers used a tool called FACT-Cog, a well-validated measurement of cognitive impairment that uses a person’s own perceived impairment as well as cognitive impairment perceived by others to determine whether persistent symptoms existed. The researchers tried to correlate symptoms with other factors like age, education, race and menopausal status.

“Our study, from one of the largest nationwide studies to date, shows that cancer-related cognitive problems are a substantial and pervasive issue for many women with breast cancer,” Michelle C. Janelsins, Ph.D., lead author, assistant professor of surgery in Wilmot’s Cancer Control and Surivorship program and director of the program’s Psychoneuroimmunology Laboratory, said in a press release.

“We are currently assessing these data in the context of objective cognitive measure and to understand the role of possible biologic mechanisms that may confer risk to cognitive problems in patients.”


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