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"chemo brain" "chemo brain"

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Unread 04-24-2004, 05:48 PM
"chemo brain"

Hello sisters,

I'm wondering about what you may have experienced in the way of "chemo brain"?? Did you ever have it, how did it affect you, how long did it last? My experience has been this: I was treated for breast cancer in 2000. During Adriamyacin/Cytoxan, I truly felt as if I'd been lobotomized. Of course I was in shock from the whole diagnosis, but still, I could barely repeat a phone number! then i did 3 months of Taxol. I was a lot more alert but still did not feel 100%. I had to revise an article for publication and I could barely string a sentence together. I was also working on editing a film then, and it was interesting to see that my holistic sense of how to construct a storyline seemed to be OK, it was the verbal channel that seemed to really be suffering.

That was three years ago. Since then, I've been taking tamoxifen. My concentration and short-term memory now is much better than during chemo, but I still feel like I'm a bit off. I used to consider myself --and be considered-- a pretty good writer. Now, writing my dissertation, I often find I can't even identify what is is I'm trying to say, much less phrase it as well as I could in the past.

I read a posting somewhere by someone who had just re-started tamoxifen and felt like her chemo brain had returned. But I have seen little on this subject. My oncologist used to tell me it must be estrogen-related, since menopausal women often have similar complaints, and she says she hasnt ever had a male patient who has suffered from it. But she didnt know of any studies one way or the other.

any insights will be appreciated!
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Unread 04-24-2004, 08:41 PM
"chemo brain"

Dear Lisa,
This is a fascinating subject you've raised. Not having done chemo, I can't add anything from my own experience. My menopause isn't a 'pure' one yet, as I'm taking loads of heavy-duty pain meds which affect my memory and writing skills -- I'm not sure what's due to estrogen and what part is drug-related.

One thing I've noticed -- when hand-writing letters or essays, I have started skipping letters within words. ("Noticed" might come out as "Nticed," for instance.) This doesn't happen when I type, though. Possibly because I touch-type, so it's finger memory. I've always been a meticulous speller, (I'm not bragging -- it came naturally) so when I catch these mistakes I'm absolutely horrified. It may simply be a case of my brain going faster than my pen. Again, though, I suspect this is an effect of the drugs and not the menopause.

I'll keep an eye out for any studies, and if I have any insights, I'll add them here.
Unread 04-25-2004, 12:28 AM
"chemo brain"


There have been some studies just recently that discuss "chemo brain." Not only is it a common complaint, but there is a very real physiologic reason behind it.

I don't know what exactly the chemical changes are, but apparently PET scans of the brain could demonstrate changes ("this is your brain...this is your brain on chemo "). It's also commonly reported following open heart surgery. A lot of the doctors say that it's just "depression" or "menopause," but the new research is starting to turn around those attitudes.

Good luck! I found this article that explains some of the changes more specifically. Hope it helps...

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Unread 04-25-2004, 05:46 AM
"chemo brain"

Empresse and Audrey, thanks for answering. I checked out the article you gave the link for. Very interesting! I was relieved to see that there may be some techniques for improving :-) I was given the drug they mention, dexamethasone, during Taxol treatments. But as I mentioned in my post, I actually felt more alert mentally during Taxol than during A/C. Also, the article mentions the hippocampus as being the part of the brain they think is affected by chemo. I remember reading something somewhere about hot flashes in which they speculate that changes in the hippocampus are responsible... so maybe that is the menopausal connection my oncologist was talking about. Do men have hippopotamuses--er, hippocampuses??? :-)

Anyway, I wrote to the researcher mentioned in the article to ask her for more information. If I find anything out I'll let you know!



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