Although controversial, chemotherapy is one of the most common mainstream medical answers in the treatment of cancer. Not only is its effectiveness questionable — makers claim an extension of life as a “success” — but there is a whole slew of unpleasant and even debilitating side effects. A new analysis from researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Center have substantiated one more, long term side effect to add to that list — cognitive deficit, known as chemo brain — and this one doesn’t go away when the treatment is over.
According to the study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, breast cancer patients who underwent chemo treatment showed mild impairments in verbal abilities and visuospatial abilities. This means the women studied had a harder time finding the words they needed to communicate and were more likely to get lost. The meta-analysis looked at numerous previously published studies and was funded in part by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health.
“Chemo brain” is an incidence that cancer patients have long experienced, though were sometimes met with disbelief and frustration from their doctors. Now, more and more research is showing that the poison that kills cancer cells may also affect the brain.
“The objective of our analysis was to clarify existing research on cognitive functioning in patients who had received standard dose chemotherapy for breast cancer at least six months previously,” said lead author Heather S.L. Jim, Ph.D., lead author of the study and an assistant member at Moffitt. “Earlier studies had reported conflicting evidence on the severity of cognitive deficits, especially over the long term.”
The analysis found that those patients treated with chemo performed worse on tests of verbal ability and tests of visuospatial ability than those patients who either didn’t have cancer or weren’t treated with chemo.
There was a time when if a doctor recommended chemotherapy for your cancer treatment, you complied. Now, more and more people are weighing the pros and cons of this medication and finding they might be better without.
Common side effects include the well-known: nausea, hair loss, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, pain and fatigue. More long term and later developing side effects, however, can be far more serious, and include: lung damage, heart problems, nerve damage, kidney problems, infertility, risk of more incidents of cancer and chemo brain.
The reason chemotherapy is so damaging is because it is a poison, plain and simple. It attacks cancer cells and kills them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t recognize the differences between healthy and unhealthy cells. In other words — it attacks them all.
Cancer prevention is the key to avoiding the tough treatment decisions. And cancer prevention is accomplished through the diet.
The World Cancer Research Fund has determined fruits and vegetables can reduce the incidents of cancer. There is no magic bullet, so to speak, but the combination of a variety of fresh produce every day can have significant effects on your health overall and your risk of developing cancer. Cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage and broccoli, are particularly potent in cancer prevention and even cancer treatment. Study after study has shown compounds in these vegetables to stop cancer cell growth in its tracks.
Modern medicine is a marvel — and in some cases it can extend the life of people diagnosed with a tragic disease like cancer. But all of modern medicine, including chemotherapy, comes at a cost. As conscientious consumers and health-conscious individuals, it’s our responsibility to prevent these diseases and illnesses through proper nutrition and whole-body health, and when we are presented with the tough decisions on treatment — to make those decisions with as much unbiased information as possible.