EMMC studying memory loss among chemotherapy patients

6:57 PM, Oct 8, 2013   |    comments
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BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- We all know how frustrating it can be to forget something like leaving your car keys in the ignition, or forgetting somebody's name, but for some cancer survivors who are getting chemotherapy, memory loss can be a side effect of treatment. People can get cognitive therapy to help, but it can be difficult for some in our rural state to get to a facility that offers such treatment. That's why EMMC is in the middle of a study that will bring that treatment to people where they live.  

Betsy Chapman knew when she agreed to treat her breast cancer with chemotherapy that memory loss or "chemo brain" as it's sometimes referred to, could be a side effect. For her, it was a risk worth taking.  

"I was more concerned about dying from cancer, so it was a piece of information," Chapman said.   During her treatment, she gradually noticed that she couldn't find the right words when talking to people.  One pivotal moment came when she was taking her eighty year old mother to the doctors during a day filled with other errands.  

"Driving along I got on the interstate,  I forgot to pick up my mother! That's a little disturbing!  I forgot my mother! So there were some things that were really upsetting."      

That's when Chapman enrolled in a cognitive behavorial therapy program with Dr. Robert Ferguson at EMMC.  

"When you're under greater pressure you have more memory failure and that's where the frustration comes in," Doctor Ferguson explained. 

Doctor Ferguson meets with patients once a week for 8 weeks. The sessions are 35-40 minutes. During those sessions he gives people cognitive tools to offset their memory loss. Dr. Ferguson is conducting a study right now to see if that treatment could be as effectively delivered through video-conferencing.    "Many rural patients do not live near cancer centers in fact most people don't live near comprehensive cancer centers or community cancer centers so we want to reduce the travel burden of cancer survivors, they've already traveled far enough to get active treatment such as radiation treatment therapies and chemotherapy treatment," he said.

Betsy Chapman is involved in the study. She hopes the treatment can help others like it's helped her.   Dr. Ferguson says he needs about 10 more people for the study. They must be breast cancer survivors with memory loss who have been out of treatment for at least six months.Those who fit that criteria and would like to be part of the study can call 1-855-973-7322



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