Mental fuzziness is a common complaint of many cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and appears to be more likely if radiation is also used as part of treatment. A new University of Texas study supports the validity of “chemo brain” and suggests that the condition may be triggered by the widely-prescribed anthracycline chemotherapy drug used to damage cancer cell DNA. While the drug is effective in killing cancerous cells, it also produces neurotoxic effects on the brain, impairing memory and cognitive skills.
The study compared women with breast cancer, one that was undergoing chemotherapy with anthracycline, another with a non-anthracycline drug and a control group that received no chemotherapy. Functional MRI brain images taken on each woman as they performed specific recall and thinking tasks showed that the anthracycline group had lower recall and verbal memory scores, lower brain connectivity and a decrease in information processing than the other two groups. Researchers recommend that patients request a neuropsychological evaluation be administered throughout and following completion of treatment, similar to standard cardiac follow-through procedures for patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Chemo brain can be as devastating as any other physical side effect of chemotherapy, disrupting daily routines and affecting workplace productivity; it can linger long after the nausea, hair loss and other common side effects are gone, sometimes for decades after treatment. Neurofeedback training is an effective therapy option for breast cancer survivors who experience cognitive impairment. By providing the brain with feedback when it produces abnormal brain waves that trigger neurological symptoms such as brain fog, neurofeedback training enables the brain to self-correct and normalize brain-wave patterns. Breast cancer survivors report that neurofeedback training helps to alleviate fatigue, improve sleep, relieve depression and regain mental clarity.
See Dr. Keri Chiappino’s video on how BrainCore neurofeedback therapy can help combat chemo brain: