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Chemotherapy impairs your memory

Chemotherapy can affect the brain’s network and impair the memory according to a new study from Aarhus BSS and Aarhus University Hospital.

2017.08.11 | Tine Bagger Christiansen

Chemotherapy can affect the brain’s network and impair the memory according to a new study from Aarhus BSS and Aarhus University Hospital. Photo: Colourbox

New research has explored how chemotherapy affects the brain’s network in a group of men who are being treated for testicular cancer. The study shows a significant impairment. Among other things, chemotherapy affects the memory.

“The study is the first to explore how chemotherapy affects the neural network of testicular cancer patients,” says Ali Amidi, postdoc at the Unit for Psycho-Oncology and Health Psychology at Aarhus University Hospital and Aarhus University - and one of the researchers behind the study.

The result
A total of 64 men who had undergone surgery for testicular cancer took part in the project. 22 of the 64 men had chemotherapy after their operation while 42 only had surgery. The men were MRI scanned at the start of the project and after six months. In addition, they underwent a series of neuro-psychological tests of their memory and ability to concentrate. The result was clear. After six months, the groups who had had chemotherapy performed considerably worse cognitively. More specifically, this included memory loss, difficulties managing ordinary tasks or concentrating. The MRI scans also showed that the brain’s network capacity had decreased in this group of people.

Researchers still recommend chemotherapy
The results should be seen in relation to the healing effects of chemotherapy, and the researchers by no means recommend that you change the treatment in the future.

“Some people have trouble getting help with their cognitive problems after chemotherapy, and this study contributes to shedding light on the fact that the problem is real. Hopefully, this will make it easier for people to get help,” says another researcher behind the study, Bobby Zachariae, who is a professor at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences and head of the Unit for Psycho-Oncology and Health Psychology.

The cognitive abilities of the men in the study were tested right after the operation for testicular cancer and again six months later. In the period in between, 22 of these men had also had chemotherapy. This allowed the researchers to test whether the chemotherapy made a difference.

More research needed
Less is known about whether or not the memory continues to be impaired. The study only followed the patients for three months after they completed their chemotherapy, so more research is needed in this area.

Among other things, the results of the study have been published in one of the leading journals on cancer i.e. Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Further information

Professor Bobby Zachariae
The Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Aarhus BSS
Email: bzach@psy.au.dk
Tel.: +4587165878

Ali Amidi, PhD.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Unit for Psychooncology & Health Psychology
Department of Oncology, Aarhus University Hospital &
Department of Psychology, Aarhus University
T: (+45) 8716 5305
M: ali@oncology.au.dk / a.amidi@rm.dk

           

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