Several studies have shown that cancer patients very often exhibit mild deficits of attention, memory and other basic cognitive functions. 'Chemo brain' is a common term used by cancer survivors to describe thinking and memory problems that can occur post cancer treatment. A new study has found symptoms of 'chemo brain' among cancer patients even before the initiation of chemotherapy.
Kerstin Hermelink from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich, Germany, said, "Cancer patients can perceive and experience their condition as a severe trauma. Indeed, many of them develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly in the early phase after they receive the diagnosis. Stress has a very considerable influence on cognitive performance and definitely impacts on brain function."
Researchers studied 166 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and 60 others in whom screening of the breast had revealed no signs of disease. The study participants were assessed three times during the first year following the diagnosis. Hermelink said, "As we suspected at the outset, the higher failure rate in this test could be linked to post-traumatic stress, the greater the level of stress, the more errors they made, and statistical analysis confirmed that the correlation was highly significant."