Chemo Brain

All cancer patients treated with chemotherapy swear that the very treatment which helps their cancer ultimately affects brain cells. Friends and family of chemotherapy patients describe neurological side effects like memory loss, dementia, and even seizure.

In an article from Thursday's BBC News, there is now scientific evidence that this is in fact the case. Patients call this syndrome "Chemo Brain." Researchers at the University of Rochester found, in lab tissue samples, that at high chemotherapy treatment doses, not only are cancer cells killed, but also a significant percentage of the normal brain tissue is destroyed.

Lead researcher Dr Mark Noble said: "This is the first study that puts chemo brain on a sound scientific footing, in terms of neurobiology and cellular biology."

The Rochester team carried out tests with three drugs used to treat a wide range of cancers: carmustine, cisplatin and cytosine arabinoside.

All three drugs were toxic to several types of brain cell whose job is to repair other cells in the brain - even at very low concentrations.

So, if you're a cancer patient who has received chemotherapy, how do you react to this news? Some may find solace in the fact that for the first time, there is solid scientific data confirming their suspicion of chemotherapy side effects on the brain. Prior to this, cancer patients had to wonder why their doctor did not believe them when they talked about neurological side effects.

For others who have not started chemotherapy, it may make them think twice about receiving treatment. To be honest, I hope that doesn't happen. Being given the diagnosis of cancer is devastating in itself. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation - possibly a combination of these. All carry side effects. But, the alternative of no treatment (depending on the severity of the cancer), has it's own ramifications.

Hopefully, this newly discovered data will assist oncologist researchers to develop neuro-protective properties in chemotherapy agents. Cancer research has always been furious and technology is always changing. I have hope that more treatment options will be available for patients with cancer.