Can you exercise your way through chemo brain?

The side effects of chemotherapy can be long lasting. Nearly every chemo patient experiences some short-term problems with their memory. But some will feel the impact for the rest of their lives. There may be a simple solution to ease the impact of chemo brain.

Almost 40% of us will be told we have the c-word at some point in our lives. The fact is that more and more people are surviving cancer. In fact, there are almost 17 million cancer survivors in the U.S. But the side effects of treating cancer, especially the side effects of chemotherapy, can be long-lasting.

Nearly every chemo patient experiences some short-term problems with their memory. But some of those people will feel the impact for the rest of their lives. As Ivanhoe reports, there may be a simple solution to ease the impact of chemo brain.

Tessa Gauzy was young … vibrant … healthy …

“And one day just after a run, I was like, my breast hurts and it hadn’t done that before. And I was like, okay. So, when I was taking my shower after, I felt the lump,” explained Tessa.

Tessa was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. Tessa underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. And although both have their side effects, it was the chemo that threw her for a loop.

“Most patients diagnosed with cancer will experience some degree of cognitive decline throughout their cancer experience,” shared Dr. Elizabeth Salerno, Assistant Professor of Surgery with Washington University.

Chemo brain usually improves within nine to 12 months. But up to 20% may have long-term effects including problems with memory, word retrieval, concentration, following instructions, multitasking, and setting priorities. A study from Washington University in St. Louis found that once diagnosed, rest may not be the best medicine.

“Patients may benefit more from moving their bodies and being physically active in the days and weeks leading up to treatments rather than just sitting and resting,” said Salerno.

Another study out of Dana Farber suggests aerobic exercises like walking, running, dancing, or cycling have the most impact. Tessa found her focus by spinning.

“It’s kind of been a lifesaver,” Tessa said.

And hopes to peddle her way through cancer.

Although doctors don’t know what causes chemo brain, theories include the anxiety and stress related to the cancer diagnosis. Also, cancer medications like tamoxifen may contribute to prolonged cognitive symptoms than those who receive only chemotherapy.