Study: Treatments can cause memory loss in breast cancer patients

A new study finds that breast cancer survivors may experience cognitive problems several years after they've had treatment.

Although it's been known that chemotherapy can cause memory problems in some breast cancer patients, up until now, the extent of the problem has not been fully measured.

Researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa examined 62 breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy plus radiation, 67 patients treated with radiation only, and 184 women with no history of cancer. The participants took memory and cognitive tests for six months after completing treatment and again 36 months later.

Investigators found that chemotherapy caused cognitive problems in breast cancer survivors that persisted for three years after they finished treatment. They also noted that breast cancer survivors who had been treated with radiation (and not chemotherapy) often experienced the same problems as breast cancer survivors treated with both chemotherapy and radiation.

They did not find that hormonal therapy (such as tamoxifen) caused cognitive difficulties.

Doctors say the next step in their research is to figure out why these treatments vary when it comes to memory issues.

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