Study Finds That Exercise Before and After Chemotherapy Could Prevent Chemobrain

Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine have found that exercising can reduce the occurrence of chemobrain in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Chemobrain refers to the cognitive impairment that cancer patients undergo due to chemotherapy.

According to an assistant surgery professor and a study author from the Washington University School of Medicine, cancer patients often experience cognitive decline after chemotherapy. Symptoms of the conditions include poor concentration, difficulty finishing their sentences, and lapses in their memory.

For this reason, the researchers wanted to find out if increased physical activity could prevent cognitive decline thus help patients during chemotherapy.

How researchers conducted the study

The team gathered 580 breast cancer patients and evaluated their physical activity before and after they began chemotherapy. They also looked at 363 people with no cancer examined their activity levels. This was the control group.

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services recommends that cancer patients participate in 150 minutes of moderate to physical exercise weekly. However, the researchers noted that only 33% of the patients followed this guideline. Moreover, only 21% had physical activity while undergoing chemotherapy.

The researchers also noted that patients exercised more after chemotherapy. Those following the exercise guidelines would go from 21% to 37%. Researchers measured the brain health of the women using a sustained attention test. They also used the volunteers’ reports on their visual memory and cognitive performance.

Those who didn’t exercise experienced rapid cognitive decline

The team concluded the patients who didn’t work out experienced a significant decline in cognitive function. However, those who exercise before and after chemotherapy maintained high cognitive function.

Researchers also realized that participants who exercised only before chemotherapy experienced less cognitive decline compared to those who didn’t do any exercises.

Michelle Janelsins, a lead study author and assistant professor at the Wilmot Cancer Institute and University of Rochester Medical Center, adds that the patients who followed exercise guidelines before and after chemotherapy had the same cognitive function as people who didn’t have cancer and didn’t go through chemotherapy.

The team believes that these results could prove valuable for cancer patients as they could encourage them to exercise more. Furthermore, healthcare providers would be more willing to recommend exercise for chemotherapy patients.

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