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ChemoBrain and PTSD

Posted 5/30/2017

Posted in

  This seems to be such an obvious link/association that I am rather surprised not to have read about it before. Or, if I were really on top of things, I would have written about it. Everyone knows that we don't perform at our highest level or think our most clearly when we are anxious or stressed. Most of us would concur that going through cancer is traumatic, and I have long expressed my belief that most of us come out with some version of PTSD. Ergo, of course, the two issues are connected!

  This thoughtful article from EurkaScienceAlert describes a recent German study in which women who had been treated for breast cancer, with or without chemotherapy, had mild cognitive decline and difficulties. I see no reason why these results would not apply to people going through treatment for other cancers.

  Here is the start and a link to read more:

 Chemobrain': Post-traumatic stress affects
cognitive function in cancer patients


Subtle cognitive dysfunction and decline in breast cancer patients was largely independent of chemotherapy
but associated with cancer-related post-traumatic stress in a German multisite study.
Many breast cancer patients report problems of cognitive functioning, and some are considerably burdened
by them. These symptoms have mainly been attributed to neurotoxic effects of chemotherapy, as reflected in
the colloquial term 'chemobrain'. Now a longitudinal study in newly diagnosed breast cancer patients from six
institutions in the area of Munich, Germany, investigated the role of post-traumatic stress in the causation of
cancer-related cognitive impairment. The project was funded by the Deutsche Krebshilfe and led by
psychologist Kerstin Hermelink (Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, CCC LMU University Hospital of
Munich). In the first year after diagnosis, breast cancer patients treated with and without chemotherapy
showed minimal cognitive dysfunction and decline, which were associated with post-traumatic stress due to
having cancer. "It is well-established that post-traumatic stress - not to be confused with everyday stresses -
has disruptive effects on the brain," Hermelink says. "For many patients, being diagnosed with breast cancer is a traumatic experience. The hypothesis that cognitive dysfunction in breast cancer patients is caused by post-traumatic stress seemed therefore worth pursuing."


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