Does chemo cause cognitive impairment?

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Question from Rbrent: Does 4 doses of AC (Adriamycin/Cytoxan) chemotherapy cause any long-term cognitive impairment?
Answers - Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. This is a good question. Many women describe problems with short-term memory and with concentration when receiving really any chemotherapy. Some of the changes in cognitive function (thinking and concentration) can be due to a variety of problems, such as sleep disturbance, fatigue, information overload, a busy lifestyle, and depression and anxiety.

I would say that long-term memory problems (persisting or lasting more than one to two years) are uncommon. If you are affected, however, this can be a very troubling, annoying, and frustrating effect of chemotherapy. The hormonal changes that chemotherapy can cause, such as "chemopause," may be responsible in large part for the memory and concentration problems.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. For many women, on the heels of chemotherapy as well as the abrupt onset of menopause as Dr. Griggs has described, they may go on to take anti-estrogen therapy. This hormonal therapy may also have an impact on thinking and remembering. And, of course, as we all know well, growing older does gradually reduce your ability to think as clearly as you did when you were younger. This also factors in.
Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. It's important when you're undergoing chemotherapy to cut out any stress that you can and to recruit all the support that you can. This may help you get through such a stressful time more smoothly.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. And watch out for all those damned expectations you put on yourself! As Dr. Griggs is saying, you have to give yourself the space and kindness that you need to get through and beyond this.

On Wednesday, February 18, 2004, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Chemotherapy UpdatesJennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about advances in chemotherapy treatment: different types of drugs and regimens, how to reduce or eliminate unpleasant side effects, and more.

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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