PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – There was a clinical trial of less than a year, but it made a big difference in quality of life for breast cancer survivors.
Valorie Checque, a patient of Dr. Robert Ferguson who works at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, spoke weekly by phone but never in person. That’s because Valorie is part of a new telehealth and memory study where everything is done at home. The study was a clinical trial for breast cancer survivors.
For many people, the battle after beating breast cancer doesn’t stop. Some experiences are known as “Chemo Brains” where simple tasks can sometimes feel unfulfilled. Valorie Checque, a breast cancer survivor and part of the study, said: “I’m forgetting things, I’m forgetting things that just happened all at once.
These memory problems can persist for years, after cancer treatment ends, Dr. Ferguson said.
“So, memorize the words, what someone has said, or what you may have read,” says Dr. Robert Ferguson, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at UPMC Hill Cancer Center. “I’ve worked with people who’ve been laid off, they don’t really understand what’s going on and why their performance has dropped,” Ferguson said.
So he discovered a drug-free approach to help these patients. Eight visits weekly, by phone or computer, 45 minutes long.
“Adaptive training with memory and attention. It’s a big mouth so clinical psychologists prefer acronyms. We call it MAAT,” said Ferguson.
Think of it as “brain exercise”.
“Self-guided and really talking to yourself through the quests. Use your voice to complete steps, such as in cooking. “He says stress is a huge reason these patients may experience memory loss, and that’s something the Valorie study participants were familiar with and worked with.
“Make things not such a disaster. You can’t think of the next word, okay, let’s just say I can’t think of what to say, can you help me with this one,” said Checque.
After KDKA spoke with Valorie, she sat down with Dr. Ferguson to discuss what her life has been like since the trial. These are not part of the treatments, as they are all usually done through a computer. But once Valorie finished everything, she found what she learned she still applies to her life today – like making lists for our interview.
“I wrote myself a little list, I don’t want to forget the points and things I do regularly.” Valorie said she feels blessed physically and that her mental health is stronger now, perhaps even before her cancer diagnosis. It has given her a sense of relief and optimism about a future where she is more than expected.
https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2021/12/20/chemo-brain-treatment/ Clinical trial aims to improve the lives of people with ‘Chemo Brain’ – CBS Pittsburgh