Study: Cancer survivors more likely to suffer memory loss

Cancer survivors have a 40 percent greater chance of suffering memory loss than people who have not had cancer, according to a new national study presented by a University of Miami Miller School of Medicine assistant professor. It's severe enough to interfere with daily functioning, the study said.

The findings were presented in early October at a Miami conference on the science of cancer health disparities.

Pascal Jean-Pierre, the UM assistant professor, said the findings show that ``memory impairment in cancer patients is a national problem that we must pay special attention to.''

Researchers have dubbed the condition ``cancer related cognitive dysfunction,'' suggesting that it goes beyond the ``chemobrain'' label associated with chemotherapy alone.

Researchers speculate it may be caused by some combination of chemotherapy, hormone therapy and radiation, or by the biology of the tumor itself.

``It's not really clear how this happens. It needs more study,'' Jean-Pierre said.

The study, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared 1,305 people who had had cancer to 8,514 who had not. It included people 40 and older from diverse educational and racial-ethnic backgrounds. The problem persisted across age groups in those 40 and over.

Some patients are helped by working on good nutrition along with computer-based attention and memory therapy, Jean-Pierre said.

``After cancer treatment ends, some people recover some of their lost function. But they seldom get back to baseline,'' he said.

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