Breast cancer awareness
Breast Cancer Awareness
Month – What is Chemo Brain?
October is Breast Cancer
Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign that aims to increase knowledge
and awareness of the disease. While cancer treatments obviously save lives, many
women who get chemotherapy to treat breast cancer say they have problems
remembering, thinking, and concentrating during and after treatment. These
problems are commonly called “chemo brain” or “chemo fog”.
Doctors tend to refer to these issues as “cognitive impairment” or “cognitive problems.”
What is breast cancer?
starts when cells start growing out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the
body can become cancer, and can spread to other areas of the body. Breast
cancer is a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of the breast. A malignant
tumor is a group of cancer cells that can grow into surrounding tissues or
spread to distant areas of the body. The disease occurs almost entirely in
women, but men can get it, too.
According to the World
Health Organization, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women
worldwide, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of women each year and
affecting countries at all levels of modernization. One in eight women will be
diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. According to the American
Cancer Society, every 2 minutes a woman in the United States is diagnosed
with breast cancer. Each year it is estimated that over 220,000 women in
the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000
will die. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women.
These numbers have
influenced the need for early detection and screenings. According to the Food
and Drug Administration, more than 39 million mammograms are performed each
year in the United States. And those mammograms may have had an impact. The
American Cancer Society reports that the breast cancer death rate is down 34%
since 1990. As of January 1st, 2014, there were more than 3.1 million breast
cancer survivors in the U.S.
Women who received
chemotherapy to treat breast cancer often report having difficulty with learning
new tasks, remembering names, paying attention and concentrating, finding the
right words, multitasking, organizing their thoughts, and remembering where
things are (keys, glasses, etc.). Doctors have known for years that radiation
treatment to the brain can cause thinking and memory problems. Recently, they
have found that chemotherapy is linked to some of the same kinds of problems, some
cancer drugs can cause certain kinds of changes in the brain.
Though the brain usually
recovers over time, the sometimes vague yet distressing mental changes cancer
patients notice are real, not imagined. They might last a short time, or they
might go on for years. These changes can make people unable to go back to their
school, work, or social activities, or make it so that it takes a lot of mental
effort to do so. So they have to make an extra effort to get back in shape.
Brain stimulation is important and brain training programs like the CogniFit personalized
brain training program have been clinically proven to improve cognitive skills.