A recently published study reveals that chemotherapy can induce cognitive impairment, a little-known side effect of this common cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy uses harsh drugs to destroy or slow the growth of cancer cells, which grow and divide very quickly. Chemo harms fast-growing healthy cells too, which usually reside in the gastrointestinal tract, mouth and hair shaft. This can result in side effects such as hair loss, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea and mouth sores. Often, these adverse effects go away once chemo ends—but research has found that other side effects, such as cognitive decline, may last long term, even if the cancer being treated is nowhere near the brain.
In their report, researchers wrote that the role of chemotherapy and cognitive decline was confirmed in breast, colorectal and testicular cancers. They also stated that neuroimaging can help specify which neural processes are most heavily affected, and that cognitive rehabilitation shows promise in restoring function.
They concluded, “Clinical data and animal models confirmed that chemotherapy induces cognitive deficit…. Studies evaluating the mechanisms underlying cognitive impairments using advanced neuroimaging techniques integrating the evaluation of genetic factors are ongoing.”
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