Long-term cognitive side effects of treatment?

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Question from MarionB: I have cognitive issues 5 years after diagnosis for breast cancer, and 4 years after treatments of chemo, radiation, tamoxifen, and Aromasin. What are the current findings regarding the long-term effects of chemo, radiation, tamoxifen, and Aromasin on cognitive deficits?
Answers - Carol Kaplan Unfortunately, cognitive deficits can be associated with breast cancer therapy. In patients who have received chemotherapy, this is often referred to as chemo brain. It does not look like chemotherapy has direct toxicity on the brain; rather it is likely that a combination of factors can be held responsible. These include things like sleep deprivation, estrogen deficiency, and depression amongst many other possible causes. Most patients who develop the cognitive deficits will experience some, if not total, resolution within about a year. However, unfortunately, a small subset of patients will continue to notice problems years down the road. This is not well understood, and unfortunately, no therapy has been shown to be clearly helpful for these patients. I might add that I'm not aware of any link between breast radiation and long-term cognitive deficits. So likely the chemotherapy and hormonal therapy are the culprits here. I think it would be helpful to discuss your symptoms with your oncologist so that evaluation for and treatment of things like depression and insomnia can be considered. You may find this helpful.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Updates From the 2008 ASCO Annual Meeting featured Generosa Grana, M.D., F.A.C.P. and Carol Kaplan, M.D. answering your questions about the latest research advances on screening, treatment, side effects, and more.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in June 2008.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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