UCLA Research Offers Hope to Women Suffering Cognitive Impairment After Chemotherapy

uclaOne in every eight women may develop breast cancer. And for patients who receive chemotherapy after diagnosis of breast cancer, more than one third may suffer cognitive difficulties as a result of the treatment. So-called “chemo brain” impacts women’s ability to concentrate, organize a schedule, or to complete other cognitive tasks.

Dr. Ganz

Dr. Ganz

But a new effort led by Patricia Ganz, a medical oncologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Linda Ercoli, an associate clinical professor of health sciences at the university’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, may help women overcome the effects of “chemo brain.”


Dr. Ercoli

Researchers developed a cognitive rehabilitation intervention program for women who underwent chemotherapy as part of their treatment for breast cancer. They formed two test groups, one that participated in the intervention early on in their treatment and a second group that did not start the intervention until two months later.

“We gave women exercises on, for example, how to remember a ‘to-do’ list, remembering to buy items at the store, or planning a party and deciding what type of food should be served to guests,” said Dr. Ercoli. “Participants were given real-life tasks to complete that would use these types of strategies to improve cognitive function.” The intervention program also included homework and practice activities that they would discuss at the weekly sessions.

The results show that women who received the intervention early on had fewer complaints about their memory and other cognitive function than women in the delayed group. And electronic brain scans of women who participated in the early intervention showed that brain patterns returned to normal more quickly than for women who were in the delayed intervention.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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