News ID: 154730
Published: 0257 GMT July 10, 2016

Excessive stress leads to memory problems among breast cancer survivors

Excessive stress leads to memory problems among breast cancer survivors

A latest research conducted on breast cancer patients suggests that excessive stress can cause memory problems among breast cancer survivors, but exercise can prove helpful.

Cancer survivors face many challenges and stress can lead to serious health issues. Study's main author, Dr. Siobhan Phillips, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, informed that his team has discovered that moderate to vigorous physical activity really helps women psychologically, which then proves beneficial for their memory.

People often suffer from post-cancer memory issues due to chemotherapy or radiation treatments, called ‘chemo brain’. In a news release, Phillips said that the findings of the latest study suggest that such self-reported memory issue could be partially emotionally related, according to perfscience.com.

Phillips explained, “These women are frightened, stressed, fatigued, tapped out emotionally and have low self-confidence, which can be very mentally taxing and can lead to perceived memory problems”.

During the study, the researchers studied self-reported memory and exercise data taken from over 1,800 breast cancer survivors, 362 among whom were wearing devices known as ‘accelerometers’ that track their movement.

Moderate or vigorous physical activity, including brisk walking, jogging, biking or participation in exercise classes, was found to cut stress and fatigue in both the groups. The researchers said that this has psychological advantages and results into better memory.

The study hasn’t established direct cause-and-effect relationship, but higher levels of physical activity were also associated with higher levels of self-confidence and decreases suffering. The study authors said that such improvements were also linked to lesser perceived memory problems.

According to a report in Chicago Tribune by Nara Schoenberg, "Breast cancer survivors who exercised more were less likely to report memory problems in a new study by researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign."

The study looked at moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, such as brisk walking, biking and jogging, and complaints of memory problems, which are common among breast cancer survivors. The authors found that physical activity was linked to lower levels of distress and fatigue, which in turn were associated with fewer reported memory problems.

"Exercise may provide a way to cope with some of the stress experienced during and following a cancer diagnosis and may help women to feel more confident that they can cope with the cancer experience," said lead author Siobhan Phillips, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, via email.

The research offers preliminary evidence that boosting physical activity may reduce survivors' complaints of memory problems, the authors write. However, the study didn't directly show that starting an exercise program can reduce a breast cancer survivor's issues with memory, Phillips said. That would require a randomized trial in which patients who increased their physical activity were compared with similar ones who did not.

"Moderate-to-vigorous physical activities ― such as brisk walking or jogging ―may help improve memory in breast cancer survivors, a new study suggests.," according to a news report published by Business Standard.

"Our research suggests these self-reported memory problems may be emotionally related. These women are frightened, stressed, fatigued, tapped out emotionally and have low self-confidence, which can be very mentally taxing and can lead to perceived memory problems," said Siobhan Phillips, assistant professor, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

   
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