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Video calls help prevent long-term memory loss problems after chemotherapy

Long-term memory issues after having chemotherapy could be prevented by cognitive behavioural therapy delivered via video conferencing.

Long-term memory issues after having chemotherapy could be prevented by cognitive behavioural therapy delivered via video conferencing.

One in two cancer patients are thought to develop memory problems after chemotherapy. Although mild, the problems affect people long after cancer treatment has ended.

Robert Ferguson and his team at the Eastern Maine Medical Center and Lafayette Family Cancer Center in Maine in the US developed Memory and Attention Adaptation Training (MAAT) therapy.

The training aims to help cancer survivors become more aware of when they are likely to have memory problems, which enables them to develop skills to prevent lapses or compensate for memory dysfunction.

In a small randomised study, 47 white breast cancer survivors were given eight MAAT sessions of between 30 to 45 minutes, on average four years after they received chemotherapy. Other breast cancer survivors were given supportive talk therapy. Afterwards, participants completed questionnaires assessing their perceptions of memory problems and anxiety about their difficulties.

Over the phone they completed neuropsychological tests of verbal memory, processing speeds or the ability to perform easy cognitive tasks automatically and fluently.

Two months after MAAT ended, the videoconferencing group reported fewer problems, improved processing speeds and were less anxious about cognitive problems than those who had supportive therapy.

Reference

Ferguson RJ et al (2016). Randomized Trial of Videoconference-Delivered Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Breast Cancer Survivors with Self-Reported Cognitive Dysfunction. Cancer.

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