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It's "a growing clinical concern," said study first author Elizabeth Salerno, an assistant professor of surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "Some patients with cancer experience memory lapses, difficulty concentrating or trouble finding the right word to finish a sentence."
Before chemo, 33% of the cancer patients met government guidelines calling for at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week.
During chemo, that fell to 21%, then rose to 37% six months after treatment. Rates in the control group were about 40% at all three time points.
Those in the control group had similar results on the mental assessments, regardless of their exercise habits.
Significantly, results of memory and attention tests among breast cancer patients who met the activity guidelines before chemo were similar to those of people in the control group.
However, the active cancer patients still perceived a significant decline in thinking skills, especially during chemo, according to findings published online Aug. 18 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
"Our findings suggest that maintaining higher levels of physical activity may indeed be important for protecting cognition in patients with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy," Salerno said in a university news release.
SOURCE: Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, news release, Aug. 8, 2021
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