[MOL] Chemos Brain Drain Persists, Study Implies.... [02335] Medicine On Line


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[MOL] Chemos Brain Drain Persists, Study Implies....



CHEMO'S BRAIN DRAIN PERSISTS, STUDY IMPLIES

Associated Press
March 29, 2000
TAMPA -- Ordinary doses of chemotherapy sometimes appear to permanently dull cancer patients' intellectual powers, leaving them with poor memories, muddy thinking and inability to do math in their heads, new research suggests.

Cancer patients often complain of "chemobrain," or woolly headedness during treatment. While they are typically reassured this will go away, little attempt has been made, until now, to see if these subtle problems linger years later.

The new study, conducted at Dartmouth Medical School, found that people who get standard chemotherapy appear to be about twice as likely as other cancer patients to score poorly on various intelligence tests an average of 10 years after their treatment.

Doctors say the findings suggest that aggressive treatment with chemotherapy may be unwise in some people with early-stage cancer unless the drugs can substantially improve chances of survival.

Tim Ahles, a psychologist, presented the results Tuesday at a meeting in Tampa of the American Cancer Society. He said that while his is one of the first formal studies of the problem, the results are unlikely to surprise many cancer patients.

Ahles said that when he spoke recently about the findings at a meeting of cancer survivors, he worried that his discouraging news would upset the audience. Instead, they seemed relieved that scientists were finally taking seriously a complaint they had made for years.

He said that many years after treatment, some cancer survivors say they still have trouble remembering and concentrating. Some say they need a calculator for math problems they once could have solved in their heads. Others need to read a page twice to absorb what's being said.

"In talking to someone, you'd never notice this," Ahles said. "But it is very relevant to them."






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