Early chemobrain intervention required for breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy

Early stage breast cancer is treatable.

Associate Professor Alexandre Chan (extreme left) with cancer survivor Ms Chan Yoke (extreme right), who had experienced cognitive impairment as a result of chemotherapy. Dr Maung Shwe (centre) is part of the research team.
Associate Professor Alexandre Chan (extreme left) with cancer survivor Ms Chan Yoke (extreme right), who had experienced cognitive impairment as a result of chemotherapy. Dr Maung Shwe (centre) is part of the research team.

According to an estimate, almost 50% suffer from a cognitive decline during chemotherapy. And 30% of them experience the condition a year after treatment. While current treatments convey excellent survival benefits – with more than 90 percent of patients surviving beyond five years – many patients acquire cognitive toxicities known as chemobrain. These toxicities can dramatically affect patients’ quality of life.

Shedding light over this, NUS scientists suggest that more support is needed to help breast cancer patients and survivors manage ‘chemobrain’ symptoms, such as memory loss, short attention span, and mental confusion.

Through a study which involves 131 female breast cancer patients in Singapore, scientists found that almost half had suffered from a cognitive decline at some point during treatment and up to one-year post-treatment. 30% of them had reported some degree of cognitive impairment one year after undergoing chemotherapy.

Research team leader Associate Professor Alexandre Chan said, “Cognitive impairment among breast cancer survivors is an important issue now because early-stage breast cancer is treatable. Knowing when patients experience these cognitive problems, and how long the symptoms persist, can aid the development of suitable screening and clinical management measures.”

“Early treatment for breast cancer patients usually involves intensive therapy – this means that patients are exposed to high levels of chemotherapy drugs, and they are also at higher risk of long-term side effects. After treatment, we need to manage survivorship issues. However, the clinical presentation of cognitive toxicities remains poorly understood.”

To look at the effect of chemobrain on bosom disease patients, scientists contemplated patients with Stages I to III bosom malignancy. The patients were assessed at four time focuses – before the beginning of chemotherapy; a month and a half after chemotherapy began; 12 weeks after chemotherapy began; and roughly 15 months after the beginning of chemotherapy.

Both subjective and target measures were utilized to survey psychological decay. For the previous, patients were asked whether they confronted trouble in regions, for example, focus, memory, multitasking and verbal familiarity, utilizing an approved survey. The patients were likewise assessed on their consideration, memory, mental preparing pace and speed of reaction utilizing a computer based programming.

The specialists found that half of the respondents experienced some level of intellectual hindrance amid treatment and up to one-year post-treatment. Around 30 for every penny griped of intellectual hindrance one year after chemotherapy. Likewise, a year in the wake of experiencing chemotherapy, 15 for every penny of the members were equitably surveyed to experience the ill effects of memory difficulties, and near 10 for every penny experienced issues with reaction speed.

These outcomes were first announced in the Journal Psychooncology recently.

The results of this study draw attention to the difficulties faced by breast cancer survivors after completion of active treatment when they begin to resume their societal roles. The findings also highlight the importance of raising awareness about cognitive impairment among breast cancer patients, so that they can be better prepared for the changes they will experience during treatment and survivorship.

Building on the knowledge gained from this study, Assoc Prof Chan and his team are studying the biomechanisms behind post-chemotherapy cognitive impairment. The researchers will also evaluate the effectiveness of various interventions for managing chemobrain symptoms.

“A well-rounded holistic survivorship programme will be very useful for cancer patients and survivors. More importantly, we should actively screen and manage patients at risk of cognitive impairment. This is extremely important as we are expecting to see an increasing number of cancer survivors in Singapore, and cognitive impairment can bring significant negative impact to survivors’ quality of life,” said Assoc Prof Chan.