- Question from Linda: I finished chemotherapy in 2007, and I still have problems focusing. How long does chemo brain last?
- Answers - Christina Meyers There is a lot of individual variability. In our studies when we tested women a year after their treatment had stopped, half of them had gotten better and half had not. I do chemo brain workshops at my institution on a monthly basis, and I have 10-year survivors who still have it, so for some it may be permanent while others recover. The main thing to keep in mind is that it's generally very handleable, and the alternative is not good.
- George Sledge, M.D. Anecdotes are always dangerous, but I'd like to share one. I had a patient several years ago who was a flight attendant and part of her job as a flight attendant was to go up and down the rows in the plane taking drink orders. She said prior to receiving her chemotherapy she could take 6, 8, 10 drink orders with perfect memory. After the chemotherapy, she would write down the orders for the drinks because she couldn't remember them any more. To all the world, she appeared to have the same functionality after as before, because she had made an adjustment for the chemo brain that kept her looking functional, but she could tell the difference. That's a pattern I see fairly commonly.
- Christina Meyers That's a perfect example. People can retain their functionality, but there's a cost and effort.
On Wednesday, October 15, 2008, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Managing Chemo Brain. Christina Meyers, Ph.D., A.B.P.P. and George Sledge, M.D. answered your questions about how long chemo brain can last, what treatments can be helpful, and current research on cognitive effects of breast cancer treatment.
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