Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Research Suggests 'Chemo Brain' May Be Legit! No Kidding!

It's about time. It's only been very recent studies that are revealing the reality of "chemo brain".  So many women who have undergone breast cancer treatments report such problems and so often they're ignored, or dismissed as being only a result of the stress and anxiety caused by breast cancer. Finally some studies are showing that it's the real deal. Lord knows I've suffered quite clearly from the effect and, in fact, 3 years later, still have issues that I honestly believe I wouldn't have had otherwise.

Chemo Brain. It's for real. And it sucks. Then again, so does death by cancer. Even more so.

Research Suggests 'Chemo Brain' May Involve Neurophysiological Change:

"For many years, breast cancer patients have reported experiencing difficulties with memory, concentration and other cognitive functions following cancer treatment. Whether this mental "fogginess" is psychosomatic or reflects underlying changes in brain function has been a bone of contention among scientists and physicians.  

Now, a new study led by Dr. Patricia Ganz, director of cancer prevention and control research at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, demonstrates a significant correlation between poorer performance on neuropsychological tests and memory complaints in post-treatment, early-stage breast cancer patients - particularly those who have undergone combined chemotherapy and radiation. "The study is one of the first to show that such patient-reported cognitive difficulties- often referred to as 'chemo brain' in those who have had chemotherapy- can be associated with neuropsychological test performance," said Ganz, who is also a professor of health policy and management at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health and a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA." (read more at the above link)


Low-Dose Aspirin May Halt Breast Cancer

If you're not already, you might want to consider taking a daily low-dose aspirin.

Proliferation Of Two Breast Cancer Lines Stymied By Low-Dose Aspirin:

"Regular use of low-dose aspirin may prevent the progression of breast cancer, according to results of a study by researchers at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., and the University of Kansas Medical Center.  
The study found that aspirin slowed the growth of breast cancer cell lines in the lab and significantly reduced the growth of tumors in mice. The age-old headache remedy also exhibits the ability to prevent tumor cells from spreading." (Read more at the link above)


Seasonal Effect Revealed For Tamoxifen In Breast Cancer Treatment

It appears that low Vitamin D correlates to less effective Tamoxifen, meaning that in winter the Tamoxifen we take might not be working for us as well as it could be.  Interesting to me that the study doesn't recognize the importance of measuring our Vitamin D levels (which the Cancer Centre here has never tested for me despite the already documented link between breast cancer and low Vitamin D - go figure) and neither does it suggest increasing our Vitamin D levels via supplementation. What I infer from this report of the study is that they're suggesting perhaps we need more Tamoxifen during winter months instead. Hmmmm ...

Seasonal Effect Revealed For Tamoxifen In Breast Cancer Treatment:

"For women diagnosed with a form of breast cancer known as estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer, tamoxifen is an essential drug used in the treatment and prevention of recurring breast cancer. Currently, tamoxifen is used in a one-size-fits-all approach where the same dose is prescribed for every patient.  
New research at Lawson Health Research Institute has found that in addition to patient-specific genetic factors, lack of exposure to vitamin D during the long winter months affects the body's ability to metabolize the drug. The findings, which have been reported in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, are the first to identify this seasonal effect. Dr. Richard Kim, who is a physician at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and holds the Wolfe Medical Research Chair in Pharmacogenomics at Western University, reports that during the winter months nearly 30 percent of patients are at risk for less than optimal level of the active form of tamoxifen, called endoxifen, and therefore may not benefit as much from the therapy. "  (Read more at the link above)


Breast Cancer Survival Not Affected By Alcohol Consumption

This has become pretty typical. First we're told NO, then we're told YES. I've been told to avoid alcohol and I mostly have. I have an occasional drink, which has supposedly been a non-issue but if I have a few weekends in a row where I've imbibed, I feel a twinge of concern and I chastise myself.

Now the tables have turned ... apparently (until they turn back again) ... and we learn that alcohol is a non-issue in breast cancer survival and, in fact, in moderation it may be beneficial. I feel much better about this research than the previous studies.

Tequila shots, anyone?

Breast Cancer Survival Not Affected By Alcohol Consumption:

Although previous research has linked alcohol consumption to an increased risk of developing breast cancer, a new study has found that drinking before and after diagnosis does not impact survival from the disease. In fact, a modest survival benefit was found in women who were moderate drinkers before and after diagnosis due to a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, a major cause of mortality among breast cancer survivors. (Read more at the link above)


Mammograms Indicate Effectiveness of Tamoxifen

This makes absolute sense to me.  One of the key risk factors for breast cancer is hight breast density. I didn't have a mammogram until after I'd discovered my lump but I was told both by my radiologist and my surgeon that my breasts were "very dense". After chemo, radiation, and some time on Tamoxifen, my mammograms indicate that my breast tissue isn't dense at all. The thing is, my radiologist never volunteers this information. I always have to ask. It's such important information to know ... at least I thought so ... and now it turns out to be so.  So please ... know about your breast density whether you've had cancer or not. It's significant.

Mammograms Reveal Response To Common Cancer Drug:

Tamoxifen is a common hormone therapy drug that is usually given over a course of five years to prevent relapse in women who have completed their primary breast cancer treatment. However, no method has been available for assessing which women are likely to respond to the tamoxifen and not develop relapse of breast cancer. Researchers from Karolinska Institutet have now produced a possible way of doing just this.
The team looked into mammograms, which are X-ray images of the breast, for an answer. Breast tissue on a mammogram can be broadly classified into fatty or dense. The proportion of tissue which appears white is what contributes to 'density', whilst the black parts are mostly fat. Since tamoxifen has been repeatedly shown to induce a reduction in mammographic density, could it be that only women responding to tamoxifen treatment would exhibit a concomitant decrease in mammographic density?
The study included almost 1,000 postmenopausal women who had been treated for breast cancer. Roughly half of the group had been given tamoxifen. The women were monitored over an average of 15 years, after which 12.4 per cent (121 women) had died as a result of theircancer.
The team discovered that the difference in mammographic density between two mammograms taken after the initiation of tamoxifen was related to breast cancer survival. Women who experienced a pronounced density reduction of 20 percent or more upon initiation of tamoxifen were half as likely to die from breast cancer, over a span of 15 years, than those who experienced little or no change.
The researchers hope that their results will be used to assess which breast cancer patients are responding to tamoxifen treatment. Since the patient group already undergoes annual follow-up mammograms, no further examinations are needed.
"What's needed is accurate measurement of mammographic density, which isn't currently routine," says Per Hall, Professor at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics. "Measuring changes in density can be a simple and cheap means of assessing the effect of the treatment. If a patient is not responding to tamoxifen, maybe they should be given a different drug."