Monday, December 10, 2012


A small study presented recently at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (
suggests that “chemo brain”—the fuzzy thinking that sometimes accompanies chemotherapy treatment—might not necessarily be due to chemo, as fuzziness occurs prior to treatment.

“Chemo brain” was noted—though to a lesser extent—in women with breast cancer who awaited radiation therapy, but not in a control group of women who didn’t have cancer.

So what’s at work here? Maybe breast cancer itself meddles with your mind. More likely, though, as lead researcher Bernadine Cimprich, Ph.D., R.N., surmised, confusion results from the “mental demand and stress of a breast cancer diagnosis.” She wisely added, “Women should not avoid accepting recommendations for lifesaving chemotherapy for fear of ‘chemo brain.’” Dr. Cimprich recommended existing interventions to combat stress after a breast cancer diagnosis, including mindfulness training, psychological support, cognitive behavior therapy, and exercise.

I’m continually surprised that her advice isn’t a recognized component of all cancer treatment. If you’ve been handed any serious diagnosis, you’re all too aware of how this news, by itself, alters your mentality. In our tiny, rural cancer center, our social worker visits every newly diagnosed person to inform them about the many psychosocial interventions available, intended to complement their oncological treatment.

1 comment:

  1. My mother was treated for B-Cell Lymphoma. There is no question in my mind that the chemo changed her brain and she was NEVER the same person again till her death.

    Perhaps if Dr. Cimprich has a similar experince with her mother, she would not be so clinical with her wise thinking!