Psychotherapy Could Lessen Memory Problems Associated with Chemotherapy

MAAT could assist cancer survivors with overcoming memory problems and lessen anxiety associated with memory dysfunction.

A new study suggests that psychotherapy could be a noninvasive and effective way to prevent long-term memory issues faced by patients who received chemotherapy treatment.

Approximately 50% of cancer patients who receive chemotherapy develop changes in their memory.

According to a study published by Cancer, researchers developed a cognitive-behavioral therapy called Memory Attention Adaptation Training (MAAT). This program helps cancer survivors increase awareness of situations that may cause memory issues and develop skills to combat memory failure, or at the very least, compensate for memory dysfunction.

The study included 47 breast cancer survivors who were either assigned 8 visits of MAAT for 30 to 45 minutes each or supportive talk therapy for the same duration.

Both groups completed the sessions via videoconference. Participants were required to complete questionnaires that assessed their perceived memory difficulties and anxiety about it.

In addition, they were given neuropsychological tests over the phone that assessed verbal memory and processing speed or their ability to perform relatively easy cognitive tasks, according to the study.

Patients were evaluated after all videoconferences were completed and 2 months after the therapy was completed.

Researchers found that patients who received MAAT had fewer noted memory problems and an improved processing speed after treatment compared with patients who received supportive therapy.

Although MAAT participants were also found to be less anxious about memory problems posttreatment, researchers said that the findings were not statistically significant.

"This is what we believe is the first randomized study with an active control condition that demonstrates improvement in cognitive symptoms in breast cancer survivors with long-term memory complaints," concluded researcher Robert Ferguson, PhD. "MAAT participants reported reduced anxiety and high satisfaction with this cognitive-behavioral, non-drug approach. Because treatment was delivered over videoconference device, this study demonstrates MAAT can be delivered electronically and survivors can reduce or eliminate travel to a cancer center. This can improve access to survivorship care."