Brain Fog: Is Inflammation to Blame?


Hackensack, N.J.(Ivanhoe Newswire) – As we age, the chances increase that we’ll have memory lapses, forgetfulness, and a decline in cognitive function. Research over the past few years suggests that inflammation plays a part. Now, researchers want to determine what role inflammation plays in memory problems in cancer patients and brain fog.

Acute inflammation is easy to see – a cut, redness, or swelling. It’s the body’s response to injury. But chronic inflammation is often invisible, with no telltale signs, yet, doctors say it can take a toll.

“It’s always been thought that inflammation can potentially have a connection between cognitive changes, even in non-cancer patients,” says Dr. Deena Mary Atieh Graham, a Medical Oncologist at the Hackensack University Medical Center.

(Read Full Interview)

Now, cancer researchers want to know what role chronic inflammation caused by physical or emotional stress can play on a patient’s cognition. In a recent study, they took blood from 400 breast cancer survivors to measure their C-reactive protein, or CRP levels.

Dr. Graham explains, “These inflammatory markers or proteins in your blood can be elevated when the body is under some form of stress.”

Dr. Graham and colleagues at Georgetown found that chronic inflammation may play a role in development of cognitive problems. They say by identifying a scientific predictor for memory problems they can help patients prevent it.

“I don’t think it’s gonna be a one and done, but I think this is a step,” Dr. Graham adds.

Dr. Graham says the next step will be to identify interventions that can lower the inflammation. Dr. Graham says that might not be a medicine that patients can take but might involve lifestyle changes in combination with other therapies.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #5195

BACKGROUND: Chemo brain is a common term used by cancer survivors to describe thinking and memory problems that can occur during and after cancer treatment. Chemo brain can also be called chemo fog, cancer-related cognitive impairment or cognitive dysfunction. Though chemo brain is a widely used term, the causes of concentration and memory problems aren’t well-understood. It’s likely that there are multiple causes. Chemo brain is extremely common, says Dr. Arash Asher, director of Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship at Cedars-Sinai. “As many as 75% of cancer patients have experienced it during their treatment,” says Dr. Asher. “About a third of patients may continue to struggle after treatment.” For most patients, the effects resolve within 6-9 months after they finish treatment. For others, the symptoms could last years.


DIAGNOSING: Signs and symptoms of chemo brain may include the following: being unusually disorganized, confusion, difficulty concentrating, feeling a mental fogginess, short attention span, and/or trouble with verbal or visual memory. There are no tests to diagnose chemo brain. Cancer survivors who experience these symptoms often score within normal ranges on memory tests. Your doctor may recommend blood tests, brain scans or other tests to rule out other causes of memory problems.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Parkview Cancer Institute and Parkview Research Center, with the support of The Parkview Foundations and collaboration with IU Health, just launched a new study to examine chemo brain. The goals of this research include formulating a blood test that can predict the likelihood of onset of chemo brain in cancer patients throughout treatment and thereafter. If these blood factors, or “biomarkers,” can predict the onset of chemo brain, earlier interventions and symptom management can be initiated to improve quality of life for patients. The ultimate goal is to develop a new treatment for chemo brain. This research study is intended to identify molecular markers that can predict chemo brain and treat it early, thus improving quality of life for cancer patients and survivors. Blood biomarkers identified through this study may even be used to develop a chemo brain drug treatment.



Mary McGeever

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Doctor Q and A

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