- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 20, 2004

ATLANTA (AP) — Anticancer drugs might not be entirely to blame for the mild mental impairment suffered by some cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, a study found.

The findings suggest that the forgetfulness and other symptoms associated with so-called “chemobrain” might be caused by cancer itself rather than potent cancer-fighting medicines, researchers said in a study published today in the online version of the journal Cancer.

In a study of 84 breast-cancer patients diagnosed with neurological problems, 35 percent reported cognitive problems before receiving chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy did cause a mental decline in the other patients.

The study was the first of its kind to find cognitive impairment in cancer patients before they received chemotherapy. Other symptoms of the disorder include difficulty speaking or interacting socially.

In the past, doctors might have assumed that all cognitive impairment found after chemotherapy stemmed from anticancer drugs because physicians never examined a patient for mental decline before treatment, said Dr. Christina Myers, professor of neuropsychology at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and one of the study’s authors.

The findings are important because some cancer patients have been hesitant to undergo chemotherapy out of fear of developing post-treatment problems, including chemobrain.

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