Chemo for Breast Cancer Tied to Long-Term Cognitive Issues

Neuropyschological problems observed decades after breast cancer treatment

MONDAY, Feb. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Women treated with cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and fluorouracil (CMF) chemotherapy for breast cancer still experience neuropsychological problems decades later, according to a study published online Feb. 27 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Vincent Koppelmans, from the Erasmus MC University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and colleagues compared the cognitive performance of 196 women who had received CMF chemotherapy for breast cancer an average of 21 years earlier and 1,509 women without a history of cancer.

The researchers found that, compared to the reference group, the women who had received chemotherapy had significantly worse performance on cognitive tests of immediate and delayed verbal memory, information processing speed, executive functioning, and psychomotor speed. Women treated with CMF chemotherapy had significantly fewer symptoms of depression, but they had significantly more memory complaints which could not be explained by cognitive test performance.

"Survivors of breast cancer treated with adjuvant CMF chemotherapy more than 20 years ago perform worse, on average, than random population controls on neuropsychological tests," Koppelmans and colleagues conclude. "The pattern of cognitive problems is largely similar to that observed in patients shortly after cessation of chemotherapy."

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