UMRC researches how chemo affects the brain

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The University of Rochester Medical Center received a $3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to research how chemotherapy affects the brains of cancer patients.

“I felt it was important for me to give back to people that might be going through this in the future,” said Dawn Schnell who explained the reward she finds in taking part in cancer research.

Schnell was diagnosed in October of 2018.

“I’m a few months out from chemo, and I still feel at times that I have that fog that is over me. I used to consider myself the queen of multitasking, and at this point, I’m still working my way back to being able to do multiple things at the same time.”

Schnell said she took several cognitive tests for the research as well as exercise.

Researcher Michelle Janelsins tracks the results and compares the brain functions of women with and without cancer and found a stark contrast.

“These cognitive changes, even though they’re often more subtle — they have a significant impact on a person’s ability to function in their job, ability to maintain things at home, and overall quality of life impact,” Janelsins said.

When it comes to brain function issues, Janelsins said it’s crucial for patients and doctors to get the conversation started.

“The sooner that you can bring it up, the sooner that there may be resources available and possible things that can be done to help.”

Janelsins’ next goal is to measure the long term effects — years and potentially decades after chemotherapy treatment.

Schnell encourages all to get involved and help gather information.

“Participate, participate, participate. It’s really important that these doctors learn as much as they can from the people going through it.”

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