chemotherapy side effects

The Effects Chemotherapy has on the Brain and Silicone Breast Plants are Back

Beth Brophy Health Guide November 30, 2006
  • Chemo-Brain

    Finally, some scientific proof about a condition that many women experience after breast cancer treatment, and note to each other, even though many doctors deny or minimize the significance of this complaint.

    Chemo-brain is that fuzzy feeling that leaves you confused and forgetful. It's an inability to concentrate and focus on what you’re reading -- and it's not just in our heads. Or rather, we’re not imagining this. Our brains really are different.

    A tiny article buried in the Washington Post this week and reported in the journal Cancer says that chemotherapy after cancer surgery does cause short-term changes in brain structure, affecting memory and analytic ability. Brain volume in some regions of the brain was smaller in 51 women with breast cancer who got chemotherapy versus 54 women who did not. The new research measured the size of different parts of the brain, which may explain why women experience cognitive problems after breast cancer treatment.

    The article also noted that after three years the size of those brain structures were no longer different. Which means, I guess, that I can no longer blame my breast cancer treatment for why I can’t remember a book or movie title or where I left my keys.

    Still, I found this study heartening for confirming what I have long suspected: my mental powers were diminished by my treatment. At least the medical community is finally recognizing this.

    Who knows what study may come next… a link between tamoxifen and weight gain?


    Silicone Breast Implants Are Back


    In other medical news, the FDA this month reversed their 1992 ban on silicone implants. At the time of the ban, the implants were feared to cause major diseases and the manufacturers who made them were being sued left and right by women who said they were harmed when the devices ruptured, contracted, and caused pain and swelling. Since the ban occurred, several studies have concluded that the risks were overstated, and proponents assert that the silicone implants are more natural looking than the saline implants which replaced them. So, in what the FDA would likely call progress, women are free to get silicone implants again. Still, they carry some degree of risk. So buyer beware.

    Would lifting the ban make you more inclined to consider silicone implants?