Dr. Serena Wong Explains Chemobrain

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Serena Wong, MD, medical oncologist, Stacy Goldstein Breast Cancer Center, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, explains chemobrain.

Serena Wong, MD, medical oncologist, Stacy Goldstein Breast Cancer Center, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, explains chemobrain.

Wong explains that chemobrain refers to a cognitive dysfunction that some patients experience during or after chemotherapy treatments. Symptoms can include difficulty remembering things, concentrating or multitasking, and a general sense of not being mentally “as sharp.”

While the exact cause of chemobrain is unknown, Wong says there is an increasing amount of research being done to help physicians understand. Researchers now know that certain cancer therapies, such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy can cause an inflammatory response that can lead to cytokine production. Overproduction of cytokines can affect the central nervous system, which can cause cognitive changes, Wong explains.

Wong says only a proportion of patients are affected by these symptoms, so it’s possible that genetics may play a role.

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