What is referred to as ‘chemo brain’ is a condition that has been experienced by many people who have survived cancer.Characteristics of the disease include:
- Mental fogginess
- Memory problems
- Slowed thinking
- Inability to multitask
This is according to Michelle Monje, M.D, Ph.D., a neuro-oncologist. The condition has no cure, although the symptoms can be managed with regular exercise.The disease is believed to be an effect of the cancer treatment therapies. Monja has been studying the cognitive-impairment condition for the last 20 years along with a group of neuroscientists. The impact of radiation on the human brain has been generally recognized for a long time. Still, only recently has the magnitude of the effect of chemotherapy on the brain been discovered.
In a recent study, they have discovered two molecules that can, to some extent, undo the damage and restore normal cognitive processing functions in mice models.
The study is viewed as having given insight into a fundamental mechanism, and the researchers hope that the effects will be replicated in human beings. It is estimated that half of the patients who survive cancer also suffer the treatment’s long-term effects. It interferes with their ability to conduct their regular daily affairs. Studies done on breast cancer survivors have shown that the results may manifest up to 20 years after receiving treatment.
In children, the effects may be even more profound as the brain is affected at a critical time of development. In the study on mice, it was discovered that radiation caused the flare-up of microglia, which are immune cells, thereby hindering neurons’ growth. Common anti-inflammatory drugs corrected the situation, and the mice were able to regain normal cognitive function. It is hoped that more research will provide a solution to the ‘chemo-brain’ condition.