Wandering Minds: Chemo fog in Cancer Similar to Brain Fog in ME/CFS

Cort

Founder of Health Rising and Phoenix Rising
Staff member
Memory-Loss-4352.jpg

"The minds of people with chemo-brain lack the ability for sustained focused thought."
Post-Cancer Fatigue

Post-cancer fatigue is common and so are cognitive problems but post-cancer fatigue is caused by the cancer or chemotherapy or radiation - and none of those are present in chronic fatigue syndrome. There's no reason, other, than the similar symptoms, to believe their brains are dysfunctional in the same way.

“A healthy brain spends some time wandering and some time engaged,” said Todd Handy, a professor of psychology at UBC. “We found that chemo brain is a chronically wandering brain, they’re essentially stuck in a shut out mode.”
A recent study, however, indicates they are. The study found two things:
  1. The brains of people with post-cancer fatigue just can't shut off and relax
  2. People with post-cancer fatigue have trouble sustaining focused thought.
Both of those are found in ME/CFS. Studies indicate that the brains of people with ME/CFS keep paying attention to innocuous stimuli. The brain is supposed to notice something like background noise - and if it's not important - turn its attention to something else but it doesn't in ME/CFS.

Wandering Minds Spell Trouble

It's inability to do that causes at least three problems:
  • a) precious resources that should be diverted to the task at hand are being diverted to monitoring unimportant things and
  • b) it's hard to maintain one's focus on the task at hand; i.e. it's difficult to maintain sustained attention and
  • c) it takes much more energy to do a task that it ordinarily would.
That's a recipe for mental fatigue, a "rushing mind" and inefficient task work. Even when the women with post-cancer thought they were really concentrating on something it turned out that their brains were still focusing on other items. That means they can never devote themselves totally to one task...

It explains the odd pattern of even seasoned meditators like Toni Bernhardt having to give up or dramatically curtail their meditation practices when they come down with ME/CFS.

Even when women thought they were focusing on a task, the measurements indicated that a large part of their brain was turned off and their mind was wandering.
That's a very fatiguing problem. We learned in the series on Donna Jackson Nakazawa's book that a "wandering mind is a fatigued mind". Even when the women were asked to relax their brains never shut down. It was as if the "on" switch was turned on all the time.

System On!

We see the similar issues of systems being turned on all the time with with the increased heart rates in sleep in ME/CFS and in brain studies that indicate that after a task the brain doesn't shut offf as quickly as it should. All this fits, of course, with the idea that the sympathetic nervous system is chronically turned on in ME/CFS, FM and other disorders.

Why is a similar scenario - a scenario which, as in ME/CFS, normal cognitive tests do not pick up - happening in both diseases? It may be that toxic drugs or cancer or simply the stress of going through cancer trips similar circuits in ME/CFS and post-cancer patients. An fascinating study suggested that mitochondrial problems may be responsible for cancer pain. Could the same be true with chemo fog?

This study was good news for ME/CFS patients because it means another disease is looking at the same issues that are found in ME/CFS.
 
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lisapetrison

Active Member
Thanks for pointing this study out.

I saw a while back (I think as a comment on an NYT article) a comment from an oncologist that a high percentage of patients get "ME/CFS" within a year of getting chemotherapy, and have been pondering that ever since. This finding seems possibly related.

I've interviewed a lot of people who have moved back toward permanent health (including reduction of mold/chemical sensitivities) from ME and related diseases, and almost all of them discuss how much toxicity was released from their systems during the process of getting better. That seems to be an important clue.

Chemotherapy obviously is extremely toxic. If someone cannot process that toxicity and it ends up being stored in the tissues or organs instead, that would seem likely to have repercussions. Including, conceivably, brain fog or pain.

Thanks again for drawing my attention to this article. :)
 

Cort

Founder of Health Rising and Phoenix Rising
Staff member
Thanks for pointing this study out.

I saw a while back (I think as a comment on an NYT article) a comment from an oncologist that a high percentage of patients get "ME/CFS" within a year of getting chemotherapy, and have been pondering that ever since. This finding seems possibly related.

I've interviewed a lot of people who have moved back toward permanent health (including reduction of mold/chemical sensitivities) from ME and related diseases, and almost all of them discuss how much toxicity was released from their systems during the process of getting better. That seems to be an important clue.

Chemotherapy obviously is extremely toxic. If someone cannot process that toxicity and it ends up being stored in the tissues or organs instead, that would seem likely to have repercussions. Including, conceivably, brain fog or pain.

Thanks again for drawing my attention to this article. :)
I wonder if MCS is similar - too many toxins clogging up the system? Not necessarily from chemical exposure but from something that knocks out the detoxification system. The system sure feels like its full of sludge...
 

Mona-Alisa

Member
toxicity was/is key in my ME and severe MCS. i saw, after many unhelpful ME/CFS specialist, an environmental dr in Atlanta '97-'99. my tests show'd many of the things science is just now talking about - low NK cells, phases I and II genetic detoxication problems, many heavy metals, endocrine problems of all sorts, over activation of cytokines, mitochondria dysfunction, and many more. i went through hellish detoxification, but at the end i was in total remission. i was told to stick to his protocol and i would stay well. unfortunately, i stupidly, piece by piece gave it up believing i was 'cured'. all this to say - YES! Absolutely toxins are a huge part of this in my case. that wonderful dr was closed down by the GA medical board cited with FDA unapproved treatments. i spent the cost of a nice house doing it. i cannot afford it again. but it is most unfortunate that toxicity - including mold - isn't looked into for ME. part of my relapse was mold exposure. not initially though. thankfully my MCS has remained mild. and of course, in my experience, chemo could cause ME. my mother has just come through her third bout with cancer and i am afraid i am seeing very similar symptoms in her. :(
 

ladybug64

Member
Mona-Alisa: What was the detox protocol that you found so helpful, could you share? I'm assuming you did series of IVs....
 

Mona-Alisa

Member
Mona-Alisa: What was the detox protocol that you found so helpful, could you share? I'm assuming you did series of IVs....
It was a myriad of treatments. I did DMPS IV's and DMSA orally for mercury detox. I had to do IV's nutrients to help with detox as well as serious mineral deficiencies daily for 18+ months. As well as IV glutathione. Nutrients were used to enhance liver detox and included multivitamins and minerals, essential fatty acids, magnesium, digestive enzymes, Coenzyme Q10, and antioxidants like selenium, zinc, probiotics, and glutamine, vitamins C, E, and A, among others, 90 supplements 3x daily. One of the best, yet hardest, was sauna deprivation. I sweated at up to 180 degrees 2x a day, 5 days a week for about six months. Then regularly for years after. My story is in a book written by the Dr I went to. The book is called, "What your Doctor May Not Tell You About Autoimmune Disease" by Dr Stephen B Edelson. He used a pseudonym for me, Roberta. If you can afford it and you are extraordinarily determined you may find an Environmental specialist near you through the online website of The American Academy of Environmental Medicine. Good luck and I hope this helps. You may connect with me through the forum here. Just click on my name below the avatar.
 

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