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Posted 10/28/2013

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  Chemobrain by any other name is just as frustrating. Whether we describe it as "hormonal brain" (meaning the lack thereof, estrogen specifically) or normal aging or spacing out or being distracted, it is tough. I have known many women who received lots of chemotherapy and didn't particularly have cognitive issues and others who had no chemotherapy and had many problems with concentration and memory. That would argue for "hormonal brain" or one of the other labels, but, whatever we call it, we recognize it when we see it.

  This is a delightful essay from The New York Times ny Susan Gubar about these issues. Here is the start and then a link to read more:

Living With Cancer: Brains on Chemo

Over the past few months, a number of headlines in The New York Times have stumped me.
Tomatoes Have Devastated American Indian Families in Oklahoma
U.S. Workers Are Grounded by Deep Cats
Wall Saint Banks Woo Children of Chinese Leaders
Of course, those weren’t actually the headlines The Times had written. But why am I staring
at the word “Tornadoes” and reading “Tomatoes”? Looking at “Cuts” and reading “Cats”?
Interpreting the abbreviation “Wall St.” as “Wall Saint”? After three cycles (or 18 sessions) of
chemotherapy, I seem to be dealing with a weird sort of dyslexia.
Chemo brain is a phenomenon that patients have described for quite some time as a thick
mental fog resulting from chemotherapy. For quite some time, too, physicians discounted
chemo brain as a figment of patients’ imaginations. Now, however, the American Cancer
Society terms it “a mild cognitive impairment” that for most people only lasts a short time.
Doctors were skeptical about chemo brain because many factors can induce mental glitches.
Forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, memory blanks, inattention, word loss, retention
problems and disorganization can result from aging, sleeplessness, depression, fatigue,
anxiety, low blood counts, the onset of menopause and other medications.
Isn’t it curious, though, that chemotherapy often accelerates aging, causes sleeplessness and
depression, promotes fatigue and anxiety, lowers blood counts, causes the onset of
menopause and requires powerful secondary medications to deal with its side effects? We
seem to be caught in a dupe — oops, I mean a loop.


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