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Certain Exercises May Alleviate Negative Effects of Chemotherapy


For the thousands of people facing cancer treatment in America, chemotherapy can be a very hard process, both physically and emotionally. Radiation treatment weakens the immune system, and can cause hair loss, fatigue and nausea.

For many cancer survivors, the after effects of radiation may still exist – particularly in the form of what is commonly known as “chemo brain.” This condition causes lack of focus, memory loss and wandering mind, often times lasting for months or even years after treatment ceases. According to statistics, chemo brain is present in anywhere from 15 to 75 percent of cancer patients.

However, researchers have suggested that cancer survivors may be able to find relief from chemo brain, by engaging in both physical and mental exercises. A study conducted at the University of British Columbia found that healthy brains spend some time wandering and some time engaged, while patients with chemo brain have a chronically wandering brain. The researchers gave patients with chemo brain a series of cognitive games such as puzzles like Sudoku, and found that their focus improved afterwards.

There is controversy however to the actual diagnosis of chemo brain. For many cancer patients, their radiation does not cross the blood-brain barrier, and therefore should have no effect on cognitive function. Some researchers believe it is the fatigue, stress and physical weakness that come from cancer treatments and not necessarily the radiation involved. Despite the debate, it is hoped that this study’s findings will encourage more focus on chemo brain. Finding both causes and treatments will greatly improve the quality of life for cancer survivors and their immediate families.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of General Physics Laboratory (GPL)

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