Maybe 'Chemo' Isn't Behind 'Chemo Brain'

April 15, 2008

Download Story

Women treated for breast cancer sometimes complain about a foggy-headed feeling called "chemo brain." Many blame chemotherapy, but two neurologists visiting Chicago say that's an unlikely culprit.

The stakes are high for finding what's behind chemo brain. Some women with breast cancer actually avoid treatment for fear they'll become forgetful.

But Michigan State researcher Michael Boivin says their concern might be misplaced. Boivin says women just diagnosed did worse on learning tests than women who actually made it all the way through chemo. He suspects "chemo brain" might be stress-related, and the fogginess decreases over time.

Boivin's presenting his work at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurologists. Another researcher is presenting similar results in a separate paper.

Both scientists say their test groups were small, so they invite others to follow-up with larger studies.

I'm Shawn Allee, Chicago Public Radio.