Chemo Brain or Chemo Fog

Post-Chemotherapy Cognitive Impairment or Cancer-therapy-associated cognitive change)

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Another Side Effect of Chemotherapy

Cancer treatment with chemotherapeutic drugs is often associated with many different side effects.

Chemotherapy drugs are poisons that attack fast growing cells (rapidly dividing cells). The theory behind using these toxins is that it will destroy the fast growing cancer cells before it does too much damage to normal cells. You can read more about the various forms Chemotherapy Side Effects.

There is a side effect that is debated as to existence but very real to those who suffer with it. It is the problem which is often referred to as “chemo brain” or “chemo fog”.

Chemo Fog Symptoms

Chemo-brain and chemo fog refer to:

a decline in mental ability

trouble concentrating

fuzzy thinking

problems in retrieving memories

fumbling over words

focusing attention

losing one’s train of thought

an inability to multi-task

trouble learning a new thing

It is not a problem with forming memories or intelligence.

How long does Chemo Brain last?

Sixty-one percent of chemo patients complained of these problems, and even 1 year later, over half of these patients still did not show any improvement. Recent studies published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggest it may last for decades.

What are the causes of Chemo Brain?

In the past, some doctors thought that these side effects are due to many reasons such as anxiety over having cancer, fatigue, hormonal changes due to the treatments, and the medications used to treat the other side effects of the chemotherapy drugs.

Nobody was sure whether this was linked to the drugs used or whether it was a permanent chemo side effect.

Recently, medical doctors have been looking for answers to this problem as it has become apparent that this was a real situation for which many theories have been advanced.

Breakthrough Research on Chemo Fog

Scientific research published in 2008 done by Mark Noble and fellow scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center, New York,* found the scientific reasons for this problem.

In their study, they found that nerve cells would become damaged and that this damage increased even weeks after the administration of the chemotherapy drug was completed.

They found that the myelin sheath (protective outer covering) of the nerve was damaged and that this damage often became worse over time. In other words, the problem was caused by the loss of this fatty insulation protecting the brain’s vital nerve connections.

Dr. Mark Noble, team leader, said “This is the first study that puts “chemo-brain” on a sound scientific footing, in terms of neuro-biology and cellular biology.”

Vitamin Deficiencies and Chemo Brain

We always recommend building health and nerves are no different.

The body uses vitamins to function which it normally gets from food. If the body becomes depleted of these vitamins, it cannot function correctly. Vitamin deficiencies can be created when the body is under different forms of stress – both physical and mental.

The stress of day to day life associated with cancer and its treatments, any medications used to deal with pain or any of the various side effects from chemotherapy, all deplete the body of vitamins, especially the B vitamins.

For more information about what are healthy nerves


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There is also some recent Chemo Brain Research on the effects on the brain’s use of glucose.

Research available in the Journal of Biology, November 29 issue.
“CNS progenitor cells and oligodendrocytes are targets of chemotherapeutic agents in vitro and in vivo” Joerg Dietrich, Ruolan Han, Yin Yang, Margot Mayer-Proschel and Mark Noble Department of Biomedical Genetics, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY 14642, USA


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