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Chemo Brain Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What Is Chemo Brain?

Also known as post-chemotherapy cognitive impairment, chemo brain is an informal term used to describe the cognitive impairment which results from chemotherapy treatment.

In most cases, brain effects happen quickly and are short term in nature. However, there are people who suffer from long-term mental changes.

Generally, the changes occur gradually and subtly. This is a reason some fail to notice the presence of symptoms. Therefore, many people do not tell their cancer care team about this problem until it becomes prominent enough to affect their everyday life.

Causes Of Chemo Brain:

Chemo brain, as the name suggests, is a side effect of cancer treatment or chemotherapy.

Other than cancer, the following factors aggravate chemo brain:

  •     Other drugs used as part of treatments
  1.     Steroids
  2.      anti-nausea
  3.     drugs used during surgery (anesthesia)
  4.      pain medicines
  •     Low blood counts
  •     Sleep problems
  •     Infection
  •     Tiredness (fatigue)
  •     Hormone changes or hormone treatments
  •     Other illnesses, such as diabetes or high blood pressure
  •     Nutritional deficiencies
  •     Patient age
  •     Depression
  •     Stress, anxiety, worry, or other emotional pressure

Possible Risk Factors Of Chemo Brain:

  •     Brain cancer
  •     Chemotherapy given directly to the central nervous system
  •     Chemotherapy combined with whole-brain radiation
  •     Higher doses of chemotherapy or radiation
  •     Radiation therapy to the brain
  •     Younger age at time of cancer diagnosis and treatment
  •     Increasing age

Symptoms Of Chemo Brain:

The following symptoms are exhibited by those who develop chemo brain:

  •     Being unusually disorganized
  •     Feeling confused
  •     Difficulty in concentrating
  •     Difficulty in finding the right word when speaking or writing
  •     Difficulty in learning new skills
  •     Difficulty in multitasking
  •     Fatigue
  •     Feeling of mental fogginess
  •     Short attention span
  •     Short-term memory problems
  •     Taking longer than usual to complete routine tasks
  •     Trouble with verbal memory, such as remembering a conversation
  •     Trouble with visual memory, such as recalling an image or list of words

Diagnosis Of Chemo Brain:

Since chemo brain does not have any definite cause, no tests exist to which confirms its diagnosis.
The doctor is likely to recommend blood tests, brain scans or other tests to rule out other causes of memory problems.
But if no apparent cause can be found for the symptoms, the doctor may refer the patient to a specialist who can help in coping with memory changes.

Treatment Of Chemo Brain:

The following treatment options are available:

  •     Medications
        Methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin, others)
        Donepezil (Aricept)
        Modafinil (Provigil)
        Memantine (Namenda)
  •     Learning to cope with memory changes
        Coping strategies
        Stress relief techniques

By : Natural Health News

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