Researchers Want to Know If Inflammation is to Blame for Brain Fog

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As we age, the chances increase that we’ll have memory lapses, forgetfulness, and a decline in cognitive function. Research over the past few years suggests that inflammation plays a part. Now, researchers want to determine what role inflammation plays in memory problems in cancer patients.

Acute inflammation is easy to see – a cut, redness, or swelling. It’s the body’s response to injury. But chronic inflammation is often invisible, with no telltale signs, yet, doctors say it can take a toll.

“It's always been thought that inflammation can potentially have a connection between cognitive changes, even in non-cancer patients,” said Dr. Deena Mary Atieh Graham, a Medical Oncologist at the Hackensack University Medical Center.

Now, cancer researchers want to know what role chronic inflammation caused by physical or emotional stress can play on a patient’s cognition. In a recent study, they took blood from 400 breast cancer survivors to measure their C-reactive protein or CRP levels.

“These inflammatory markers or proteins in your blood can be elevated when the body is under some form of stress,” said Graham.

Graham and colleagues at Georgetown found that chronic inflammation may play a role in the development of cognitive problems. They say by identifying a scientific predictor for memory problems they can help patients prevent them.

“I don't think it's gonna be a one-and-done, but I think this is a step,” Graham adds.

Graham says the next step will be to identify interventions that can lower the inflammation. Graham says that might not be a medicine that patients can take but might involve lifestyle changes in combination with other therapies.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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