#015 – What is Chemo Brain, Cytokines & Accelerated Aging – Part 1 – Dr. Arash Asher
April 12, 2022
About This Episode:
What is “Chemo Brain?” The term started several decades ago when cancer patients tried to describe a number of symptoms they experienced during and after cancer treatments. These symptoms seemed to affect their mind’s clarity of thought and effective information recall. Also referred to as “Chemo–Fog” back in the day, the phrase was initially popularized by patients getting chemotherapy. It’s spread quickly in groups like the breast cancer community, who often would gather together in infusion centers to receive their periodic chemotherapy treatments.
Some people thought they were crazy, because no one had communicated to them that the symptoms could occur. But his patients learned that others were experiencing similar things, they began asking more questions. In some cases, their doctors were dismissive. Other times their practitioners did try to get to the root of the symptoms. But, because little was known about the condition at the time, these efforts were not successful.
As patience became aware that the symptoms were far more common than first suspected, they became more vocal about requesting help, and advocating for its recognition.
Dr. Arash Asher of the Samuel Oschin Cancer Center at Cedar-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles joins the Our Cancer Journey Podcast to walk us through some of the more common symptoms of this condition. He then candidly discusses why medical professionals were so perplexed when initially hearing about this condition. Dr. Asher shares new science about the deeper understanding of the inflammatory cytokines* protein our bodies produce, and the theories of how these play a significant role in affecting our cognitive function.
* – You may have heard the term “cytokines” before as they are directly linked to some of the worst symptoms patients could experience with COVID-19
Dr. Asher also shares some statistics about how people are affected by these symptoms, and the good news is a large majority of people recover from the initial severity of this “foggy” experience.
Finally, patients that have never had chemotherapy also experienced similar symptoms to those described as Chemo Brain. Because those patients were largely excluded from the conversation, a new and more accurate term has been developed to describe this condition: CRCI – Cancer Related Cognitive Impairment
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Dr. Arash Asher, MD – Director of Cancer Survivorship & Rehabilitation at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai. Dr. Asher has a special interest in the physical and rehabilitative needs of cancer survivors who continue to experience the effects of their cancer and its treatment. He has led in the development of several unique cancer survivorship programs, each with the goal of optimizing physical, psychological, and spiritual resilience for patients with cancer.
Dr. Asher has also focused on improving outcomes for cancer patients and his expertise in the non-pharmacologic management of pain, cancer-related fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, neuropathy, exercise prescription for cancer patients, and the management of other musculoskeletal problems. Dr. Asher is active in leading or participating in several studies, including evaluating the role of Qi Gong* for chemo-induced neuropathy, the impact of humor & laughter from Improvisational Comedy on the well-being of breast cancer survivors, and several other innovative explorations.
* – Dr. Asher partnered on the Qi Gong study with future Our Cancer Journey Podcast Guest Dr. Mao Shing Ni, Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and best selling author.
Dr. Asher completed a physical medicine and rehabilitation residency at the UCLA/Greater Los Angeles VA, and a cancer rehabilitation fellowship at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. He is board certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, and Hospice and Palliative Medicine.
Episode Host: Bruce Watkins
A Father, Cancer survivor, producer, podcaster, writer & content creator, speaker, voice-over artist, facilitator/moderator, avid traveler, cultural explorer, humanitarian, giving-back & minimalist evangelist, music enthusiast, former Corporate people leader, and curious soul who transformed into an unapologetically optimistic and unpretentious advocate of Life-Optimization for all.
After surviving Cancer and other life-changing experiences in 2017, Bruce gave away most of his possessions, left his home behind and began traveling, writing, volunteering, and giving-back.
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