CANCER STORY: Success & Hard Truth

Side Effects of Chemotherapy


The Chemo Brain   Source: Science Blog, a Journal Article at SpringerLinkUSA Today

Chemotherapy is rarely the best option as a cancer cure therapy, as it simply does not address the underlying cause. A UCLA study has shown that chemotherapy can change the blood flow and metabolism of the brain in ways that can linger for 10 years or more after treatment. We can call this condition, “chemo brian”.

“People with ‘chemo brain’ often can’t focus, remember things or multitask the way they did before chemotherapy,” explained Dr. Daniel Silverman, head of neuro-nuclear imaging and associate professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Our study demonstrates for the first time that patients suffering from these cognitive symptoms have specific alterations in brain metabolism.”

The study of breast cancer survivors suggests the mental fog known as chemobrain might last longer than once thought and shows women treated with chemotherapy a decade ago still experience subtle memory problems.

Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Chemotherapy causes changes in the brain’s metabolism and blood flow that can last as long as 10 years, a discovery that may explain the mental fog and confusion that affect many cancer survivors, researchers said on Thursday. Experts estimate at least 25 percent of chemotherapy patients are affected by symptoms of confusion, so-called chemo brain, and a recent study by the University of Minnesota reported an 82 percent rate, the statement said.

Chemo-drugs Damage Heart   Source: Regional Cancer Institute

Chemotherapy drugs are toxins and therefore can cause damage to the heart. As a result of this damage, the heart is unable to pump enough blood to supply the body with essential oxygen and nutrients. Although several chemotherapy drugs may cause cardiac toxicity, the most common ones are the anthracyclines such as: (Adriamycin®doxorubicin, daunomycin, epirubicin, mitoxantrone and idarubicin).

Alkylating agents and vinca alkaloids can also contribute to heart damage.

Chemo-drugs + Radiation  In addition, radiation therapy to the chest wall or area around the heart can affect the blood vessels supplying the heart, leading to a “heart attack”. Since many patients, especially those with lymphoma or breast cancer receive both anthracycline-based chemotherapy and radiation therapy there may be a cumulative effect on the heart.

Chemotherapy Causes Menopause  Source: Breast Cancer Research Programme Website

Young women who receive chemotherapy to treat breast cancer experience ovarian damage. This damage may prevent subsequent childbearing and may cause side effects of early menopause, e.g., accelerated bone loss, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness. Chemotherapy-related menopause in young women produces intensely unpleasant symptoms and results in low libido and rapid bone loss. The ovarian damage increases with age and drug dose. Forty to 70% of 40-year olds will develop menopause within one year.

Chemotherapy Injures Lung   Source: The New England Journal of Medicine Resident e-Bulletin Vol.355 No.15, October 12 2006

Many chemotherapy agents may produce pulmonary injury. Many chemo-drugs have been found to POTENTIATE the damaging effects of radiation on the lung.  Bleomycin, Dactinomycin, Cyclophosphamide, Andriamycin and Vincristine enhance toxicity after irradiation to the lung area.