Researchers studying the role inflammation plays in memory problems among cancer patients

Reporter: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:

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 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.

A recent study 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,” Graham said.

Dr. 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 that’s, it’s going to be a one and done, but I think this is a step,” Graham said.

Graham said the next step would be identifying interventions to lower inflammation.

Graham said that might not be a medicine that patients can take but might involve lifestyle changes in combination with other therapies.

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