Chemotherapy's Long-Term Effects Can Last a Decade or More

A UCLA study has shown that chemotherapy can change the blood flow and metabolism of the brain in ways that can linger for 10 years or more after treatment.

This could help explain the confusion, sometimes called "chemo brain," reported by many chemotherapy patients.

Positron emission tomography (PET) was used to scan the brains of 21 women who had undergone breast cancer surgery five to 10 years earlier. Sixteen had been treated with chemotherapy regimens. Thirteen control subjects, who never had breast cancer or chemotherapy, were also scanned.

The scans took place as the women performed short-term memory exercises, and while they were resting.

The scans showed that there was a rapid jump in activity in the frontal cortexes and cerebellums of the chemotherapy patients as they performed the memory tests, indicating that they were working harder than the control patients to recall the same information.

The study also revealed that women who underwent hormonal therapy in addition to chemotherapy showed changes to their basal ganglia, a part of the brain that bridges thought and action.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Cancer is now the leading killer of Americans. A report issued by the American Cancer Society a few years ago found a staggering 156 Americans PER HOUR were diagnosed with cancer, and it probably is up to 175 per hour by now. In another report, they estimated that 1,500 Americans die of cancer each day.

Now none of us would want to battle with cancer, but chemotherapy is rarely the best option as it simply does not address the underlying cause and, as this study shows, it can give you "chemo brian" for a decade, if not longer.

The reasons for the staggering rise in cancer cases are many and varied. 

Several human studies have found a link between fetal exposure to environmental contaminants and cancer in children and young adults. Those who live near electricity power lines are at an increased risk of developing leukemia. CT scans, and traditional X-rays, are high in potentially dangerous radiation, and may be another cause.

But the main causes clearly are diet and lifestyle. I am convinced that with a few simple lifestyle changes you can virtually eliminate your risk of cancer, and also avoid the obscenely expensive cancer drugs that will likely do you more harm than good.

Here are my major recommendations, which are far more comprehensive than those suggested by the American Cancer Society:

1.      Control your insulin levels: Make certain that you limit your intake of processed foods and sugars as much as possible.

2.      Get appropriate amounts of animal-based omega-3 fats and make sure you use cod liver oil if you don't have regular access to sun exposure.

3.      Get appropriate exercise. One of the primary reasons exercise works is that it drives your insulin levels down. Controlling insulin levels is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your cancer risks.

4.      Normalize your vitamin D levels with safe amounts of sun exposure. This works primarily by optimizing your vitamin D level. If you have regular access to sun exposure then you should use fish oil, not cod liver oil, as your primary source of omega-3 fats. Ideally, it would be best to monitor your vitamin D levels.

5.      Eat according to your nutritional type. The potent anti-cancer effects of this principle are very much underappreciated. When we treat cancer patients in our clinic this is one of the most powerful anti-cancer strategies we have.

6.      Have a tool to permanently erase the neurological short-circuiting that can activate cancer genes. Even the CDC states that 85 percent of disease is caused by emotions. It is likely that this factor may be more important than all the other physical ones listed here, so make sure this is addressed. Energy psychology seems to be one of the best approaches and my particular favorite tool, as you may know, is the Emotional Freedom Technique.

7.      Only 25 percent of people eat enough vegetables, so by all means eat as many vegetables as you are comfortable with. Ideally, they should be fresh and organic. However, please understand that, frequently, fresh conventionally grown vegetables are healthier than organic ones that are older and wilted in the grocery store.

They are certainly better than no vegetables at all, so don't use that as an excuse. If you are a carb nutritional type you may need up to 300 percent more vegetables than a protein nutritional type.

8.      Make sure you are not in the two-thirds of the population who are overweight and maintain an ideal body weight.

9.      Get enough high-quality sleep.

10.    Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides, household chemical cleaners, synthetic air fresheners and air pollution.

11.    Boil, poach or steam your foods, rather than frying or charbroiling them.

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