“Chemo Fog” Is A Temporary Condition in Stem Cell Transplant Patients – Study Reveals!

A study conducted by a group of researchers from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, headed by Karen Syrjala has revealed interesting results. Through this study, it was observed that chemo brain or chemo fog or mild cognitive impairment is a temporary condition in cancer patients who undergo stem cell transplantation. The patients recovered from this condition in 5 years.

Chemo fog is the condition experienced by cancer patients after they undergo treatment. It is characterized by memory and thinking problems that arise in cancer survivors after undergoing hematopoietic transplantation (HCT) which involves blood or bone marrow stem cell transplant.

The condition is defined as having trouble in finishing tasks, remembering things or learning new skills.

Just before lymphoma and leukemia patients undergo hematopoietic transplantation, they are given chemotherapy drugs and medicines to fight graft rejection. These medicines can have an impact on memory and motor skills.

The study’s main aim was to determine whether or not the patients recover from the above mentioned neurocognitive defects within a period of 5 years after the transplantation.

92 patients who were given allogenic (cells taken from a donor) hematopoietic transplants for acute leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome or lymphoma and chronic leukemia were the subjects of the study. The control subjects were the patients’ siblings or friends of the same gender and age group who did not receive any cancer treatment or transplant.

Both these groups then underwent some neuropsychological tests such as verbal memory test, test to identify the information processing speed, motor dexterity and speed test and executive function test.

Patients took a retest after 80 days, 1 year and 5 years after the transplantation was done whereas control subjects took a retest after 5 years.

The test results were then analyzed and it was observed that most of the patients’ neurocognitive functioning improved substantially after the transplantation over the 5 year period.

These results stress on the necessity of cognitive rehabilitation strategies 1 year after the patients undergo transplantation.

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