Tag Archives: chemotherapy

Research into ‘chemobrain’ making progress

In the most recent issue of Cure, AHCJ member Elaine Schattner, M.D., examines “chemobrain,” a term used to describe cognitive changes that some patients experience during and after a chemotherapy regimen.

Schattner interviewed medical professionals and cancer survivors to shed light on “chemobrain,” which isn’t included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. She cites several studies that link cognitive decline to both chemo and hormone therapies in men and women.

It took decades for research on chemobrain to gain traction, says Tim Ahles, PhD, a behavioral psychologist who leads the neurocognitive research lab at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Ahles says investigators have had a tough time applying science to cancer patients with such a range of cognitive complaints and diverse diagnoses. In addition, patients often suffer from accompanying problems, such as anemia, pain, depression and other illnesses that can affect brain function.

Another doctor who has been studying the condition acknowledges that patient advocacy has helped move the research forward. But research is hindered by variations in the forms, doses and regimens of chemo, as well as “the fact that the condition lacks a precise definition and has a variety of symptoms that are subjective and vague.”

Members’ investigations prompt bills in Wash.

Three health-related bills moving through the Washington legislature came about as a result of articles reported by AHCJ members at The Seattle Times and InvestigateWest.

One bill is part of a “proposed overhaul of laws on long-term care of elderly adults” that was prompted by “Seniors for Sale,” a series by Seattle Times reporter and AHCJ member Mike Berens that detailed problems in the state’s adult family homes.

Another bill, unanimously approved by the state senate, will push a state agency to create standards on how to handle chemotherapy drugs. It was prompted by reporting from AHCJ member Carol Smith of InvestigateWest, a nonprofit journalism organization, that revealed that nurses who handle those drugs are exposed to health problems.

A related bill, intended to identify potential links between occupational exposures and cancer outcomes, also was unanimously approved by the senate. It would “require that a cancer patient’s occupation be reported to the registry, and that if the patient is retired, the patient’s primary occupation before retirement be reported,” InvestigateWest reports.