Chemo brain is a common, and disconcerting, side effect of chemotherapy. The syndrome is generally described as changes in cognitive abilities that occur during chemotherapy treatment for cancer. People complain that they are mentally tired, can't think clearly or can't think as fast as they used to.
Research suggests that chemo brain may be caused by uncontrolled inflammation. A new study is underway at UCLA evaluating a cognitive rehabilitation program for women with breast cancer who may be experiencing cognitive difficulties.
"Many of the patients in our breast cancer survivorship program who have cognitive complaints also have fatigue, sleep disturbance, or depression," Dr. Patricia Ganz, the lead investigator of the new study, said in a report from the National Cancer Institute published in March. "Our hypothesis is that [variations] in genes that regulate the immune system render some patients more vulnerable to this constellation of symptoms."
The UCLA study aims to develop and evaluate a rehabilitation program for breast cancer survivors who believe they are having trouble thinking and concentrating after receiving treatment. Ganz, director of cancer prevention and control research at UCLA's Jonsson comprehensive Cancer Center, is seeking 25 volunteers for the study, which will involve a period of weekly visits to UCLA for treatment and evaluation.
"Women with chemo brain often can't focus, remember things or multitask the way they did before their breast cancer treatments," Ganz said in a news release. "They can be overwhelmed with day-to-day life. They can't recall phone numbers or where they put their keys. The group intervention program is designed to address these concerns, to provide tools and techniques to aid with memory and focus."
For more information on the study, call (310) 825-2520.
-- Shari Roan
Photo: The blurred portion of the brain is associated with complex thought. Credit: Arthur Toga / UCLA