Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Chemo Brain or Why Can't I Remember?

As a 22-year survivor of breast cancer, I took special notice when I saw results of a recent study, Your Brain After Chemo.  CMF (cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, fluorouracil) was a combination of drugs used between 1976 and 1995 to treat early-stage breast cancer, and it was the treatment I received in 1990.

I had the choice between CAF (adriamyacin instead of methotrexate) or CMF*, and after I looked into the pros and cons of each, my Duke oncologist and I decided on the CMF.  One possible side effect of CAF was heart damage and since I had a slight heart murmur, we thought CMF was the better choice. It was not known then that long-term memory loss was a side effect of CMF.  Still I probably would have risked memory loss rather than heart damage.

I wish I could have participated in this study to see how my memory compared with women who had not received chemo.  In the study, the women who had undergone chemo fared much worse in verbal memory and other cognitive skills than the control group of women who had never had cancer

Unlike some women who had undergone CMF, I did not notice memory problems during or immediately after treatment.  It's been only the last few years that I have had trouble recalling certain words.  Now I wonder are those merely Senior moments or results of my chemo 22 years ago? Anyway my heart is still ticking away just fine!!!

This results of this study were just released by the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Oh my goodness, I just FORGOT, I haven't finished reading Nora Ephron's new book.
I must finish reading this book.

*CMF is no longer used for early-stage breast cancer.

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