Is “ChemoBrain” “Gray matter reduction” in Breast Cancer?

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“These gray matter alterations appear primarily related to the effects of chemotherapy (for breast cancer), rather than solely reflecting host factors, the cancer disease process, or effects of other cancer treatments.”

 “Gray matter alterations” sounds more scientific than “chemobrain” or “chemo fog.” But whatever its called I’m pretty sure its brain damage. Further, according to the study below, chemotherapy causes this brain damage to breast cancer patients. Also according to the study below, some of the gray matter alterations recovered but some did not.
I’m a survivor of a blood cancer called multiple myeloma.  Several years after my autologous stem cell transplant I was diagnosed with brain damage due to my aggressive, high-dose chemotherapy too. I also believe that some of my gray matter has recovered but I don’t think all of it has.
I’ve learn a lot about cancer, it’s causes, therapies and side effects. I know it may sound odd but I find cancer, all cancers, to be interesting. I like to help newly diagnosed cancer patients understand their choices, either good or not-so-good.
Reseach and experience have taught me that much or all of the damage done by conventional therapies can be prevented.
Scoll down the page and post a question or comment if you’d like. I will reply to you ASAP.
David Emerson
  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

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Brain Exercise Program Eases Chemobrain in Breast Cancer Survivors

“Neuroscientists have long been intrigued by the concept of brain plasticity — the ability of the brain to rewire itself. Michael Merzenich, PhD, a neuroscientist and recipient of the Kavli Prize, the highest honor in neuroscience, discovered that plasticity is a lifelong phenomenon, and was the first to harness it when he co-invented the cochlear implant. He is also a pioneer in developing plasticity-based computerized brain exercises. Through his studies on brain plasticity, Dr Merzenich developed computerized brain training exercises that could rewire the human brain through intensive adaptive practice, leading to a brain that is faster and more accurate — and as a result, has sharper cognitive abilities…”

Physical Activity Reduces Cognitive Decline in Breast Cancer

“They found, as you would anticipate, a fall in cognitive activity in general in the population that started chemotherapy; I should emphasize that this information was all obtained with objective testing. There was a fall in cognitive function in the patients who received chemotherapy, and after time, that began to improve.

Very importantly, and the point of the article, was that the patients with breast cancer who started chemotherapy with a high level of physical activity had less of a decline. Also importantly, individuals who maintained their physical activity during chemotherapy did not experience the decline seen in others.

This is a very important observation. Clearly, we need additional work in this area. If encouraging physical activity in individuals receiving chemotherapy — in this case, for breast cancer — can decrease or maybe even eliminate the cognitive decline in those individuals, this would be a major advance in cancer treatment…”

Gray matter reduction associated with systemic chemotherapy for breast cancer: a prospective MRI study.

Abstract- Brain gray matter alterations have been reported in cross-sectional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies of breast cancer patients after cancer treatment. Here we report the first prospective MRI study of women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, with or without chemotherapy, as well as healthy controls.
We hypothesized that chemotherapy-associated changes in gray matter density would be detectable 1 month after treatment, with partial recovery 1 year later. Participants included breast cancer patients treated with (CTx+, N = 17) or without (CTx-, N = 12) chemotherapy and matched healthy controls (N = 18). MRI scans were acquired at baseline (after surgery but before radiation, chemotherapy, and/or anti-estrogen treatment), 1 month after completion of chemotherapy (M1), and 1 year later (Y1).
Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was used to evaluate gray matter density differences between groups and over time. There were no between-group gray matter differences at baseline. Group-by-time interactions showed declines from baseline to M1 in both cancer groups relative to controls.
Within-group analyses indicated that at M1 relative to baseline the CTx+ group had decreased gray matter density in bilateral frontal, temporal, and cerebellar regions and right thalamus. Recovery was seen at Y1 in some regions, although persistent decreases were also apparent. No significant within-group changes were found in the CTx- or control groups.
Findings were not attributable to recency of cancer surgery, disease stage, psychiatric symptoms, psychotropic medication use, or hormonal treatment status.
This study is the first to use a prospective, longitudinal approach to document decreased brain gray matter density shortly after breast cancer chemotherapy and its course of recovery over time.
These gray matter alterations appear primarily related to the effects of chemotherapy, rather than solely reflecting host factors, the cancer disease process, or effects of other cancer treatments.”

Chemotherapy, radiation cancer treatments may be linked to decline in cognitive performance

“FINDINGS– UCLA researchers conducted a study of breast cancer survivors to better understand if lower activity of telomerase (an enzyme that helps maintain the health of cells) along with DNA damage (a factor in cellular aging) were associated with worse cognitive performance, such as attention and motor skills. The study showed that lower telomerase activity and more DNA damage were associated with worse cognitive performance…

Some people who have had cancer treatments experience cognitive decline. The study’s findings identify the correlation among telomerase activity, DNA damage and cognitive function. The study provides preliminary evidence that may help to inform future research and provide interventions to prevent cognitive decline in people with cancer who receive chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments.

“Together this research provides preliminary evidence that the cancer treatments can leave a lasting imprint on some individuals,” said Judith Carroll, an associate professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and a member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Our hope is that future research will target these biological aging pathways to prevent the cognitive declines experienced by some cancer survivors.”


Judith Carroll, Kathleen Van Dyk, Julienne Bower, Zorica Scuric, Laura Petersen, Robert Schiestl, Dr. Michael Irwin and Dr. Patricia Ganz.”

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