"Chemo-brain" may be linked to inflammation, say Rochester researchers

Barb Klube Falso with her 3 children. In 2014 she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and suffered a side effect from treatment known as "chemo-brain."

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - Barb Klube Falso was a busy mother of three with a full time job when she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.

The photos from late fall of 2014 are a reminder of the toll of eight rounds of chemotherapy. "Everyone thinks with chemo you will lose your hair," she told 13WHAM's Jane Flasch. "That's a portion of it, but there are a lot of other things that are not talked about."

One of those struggles was a sudden and acute memory lapse she would experience without warning.

"I call it a black hole - the moments I couldn't remember a thing about what was happening," Barb said, saying it was more than simple forgetfulness.

She said it was so complete it was "frightening."

The condition is known as "chemo-brain."

"I mentioned it to a professional and he said, 'Do you use that excuse often?' I couldn't believe that is what a professional said to me," Barb said.

"Yes, chemo-brain is a real phenomenon," said Michelle Janelsins, PhD. Researchers at Wilmot Cancer Institute have documented that up to 80 percent of people in treatment experience chemo-brain, and for 2/3 of them, the symptoms will continue for up to a year after treatments end.

Yet in a new breakthrough, researchers have also linked it to inflammation in the blood that somehow may react to the chemo.

"It could be a new opportunity for us to have a new blood test that could potentially identify patients who are at risk for developing cognitive changes during treatment," said Dr. Janelsins.

Cancer treatments stole a year of Barb's life. However, this research may one day lead to a way to prevent treatment side effects from stealing even more precious time.

"There is not a single portion of my life that was not impacted by cancer," Barb said. "If you can minimize some of those impacts it's like getting your life back."

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off