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Study Provides Objective Evidence of Chemo Brain Symptoms

Described in an article released on November 27, 2012, researchers have found evidence to explain the cognitive effects of chemotherapy on cancer patients. Chemotherapy is used to treat many conditions besides cancer, including Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis and many others.  According the Wikipedia, “traditional chemotherapeutic agents act by killing cells that divide rapidly, one of the main properties of most cancer cells. This means that chemotherapy also harms cells that divide rapidly under normal circumstances,” including hair follicles, causing the excessive hair loss associated with this treatment.

Chemotherapy has also been shown to cause difficulties with concentration and memory in its patients, but researchers have been unable to determine the cause of these effects on the brain.  According to Rachel A. Lagos, D.O., a diagnostic radiology resident at the West Virginia University School of Medicine and West Virginia University Hospital in Morgantown, WV, this effect from the chemotherapy has become “such a common patient complaint, healthcare providers have generically referred to its occurrence as ‘chemo brain’ for more than two decades.”  Yet up until this recent study, they have been unable to explain why their patients are experiencing these “foggy brain” symptoms.
Prior studies have found small changes in the brain’s volume after chemotherapy using MRI testing, but researchers have been unable to make a definitive conclusion based on these images. However, this new study focused on the changes in the brain’s metabolism after chemotherapy using PET/CT testing.  This information would provide evidence of the chemo’s effect on the brain’s functioning abilities.

“When we looked at the results, we were surprised at how obvious the changes were,” Dr. Lagos said. “Chemo brain phenomenon is more than a feeling.  It is not depression.  It is a change in brain function observable on PET/CT brain imaging.” This study included brain imaging results from 128 patients who have been undergoing chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer.  The results from their tests showed that specific areas of the brain used less energy after the patient was treated with chemo.  These areas of the brain have been shown to be “responsible for planning and prioritizing.”

These findings may help those patients suffering from the after effects of chemotherapy who have been denied disability benefits based on a “lack of objective evidence.”  In some cases, people with cancer may not become disabled based on their cancer symptoms alone.  Coupled with the strong and debilitated effects brought on by chemo, people suffering from this condition are clearly unable to continue working in a full-time capacity.
If you have been denied disability benefits by an insurance company because of an alleged lack of “objective evidence”, contact Grabhorn Law today for a free initial consultation. Learn how we can assist you in recovering your disability benefits.