Aarhus University of Denmark researchers have revealed that chemotherapy affects the brain’s neural network and impairs cognitive function. The study involved a team of health experts observing 64 men who have gone through testicular cancer surgery. The scientists noted that 22 of the men had chemotherapy following their operations, while 42 of the patients had surgery alone.
The study’s participants went through an MRI before the start of the study and another one six months later. They also had to undergo several neuropsychological tests to assess their concentration and memory before and after the study.
Results showed that patients who were in the chemotherapy group (all 22 of them) fared poorly than those who did not receive chemotherapy. According to the researchers, the respondents in the chemotherapy group showed worse cognitive function and performance after 6 months. The researchers also noticed that the chemotherapy patients had shown significant memory loss and difficulties in concentrating or managing ordinary tasks.
Under the MRI brain scans, the chemotherapy patient group also exhibited severe reductions in their brains’ network capacity.
This phenomenon of “chemo brain” was noted in a previous study conducted by researchers at the University of British Colombia in the Psychology and Physical Therapy Departments when the phenomenon of “brain fog” cropped up in cancer patients who received chemotherapy. They tested this theory on a group of breast cancer survivors. Findings showed that the people who received chemotherapy had difficulty sustaining focused thought.
Christoffer Johansen, a research leader at the Danish Cancer Society Research Center, commenting on the recent Aarhus University chemo study, said the results and the issues raised were strong and well-conducted. He explained that cognitive issues that usually crop up in this kind of studies involving chemotherapy patients included problems in going to work, performing tasks, remembering facts and things, and engaging in conversations. However, it seems the data cannot still pinpoint if it was the chemicals in the chemotherapy or the stress involved that is to blame for cognitive problems in patients, he said.
Other U.S.-based studies also link cognitive impairment particularly with neural network changes after chemotherapy for various cancers. This recent study shows that men with weaker cognitive abilities before the chemotherapy are at increased risk of having some cognitive impairment.
With all the hullabaloo about cognitive problems after chemotherapy, has anybody asked that with all the chemotherapy sessions these patients had to go through, did any of their cancers gone into permanent remission? With all the cancer cases I’ve seen and treated for the last 16 years, I don’t think the remission rate would be that drastically high. With all those “toxic chemicals” injected into a patient during chemotherapy sessions, I am not surprised that there might be impairment somewhere in an organ or tissue within the patient’s body. And with the immunity of the cancer patient down during her/his sickness, other normal cells cannot protect themselves against the onslaught of these toxic chemicals.
How about you – what do you think about these latest findings on the impact of chemotherapy on the cognitive functions of cancer patients? Share your opinions with others in the comments section below!