Breast Cancer Treatments Speed Up Biological Ageing

Cancer treatment involving radiation and chemo-therapy for breast cancer patients is found to accelerate biological ageing and also leads to cognitive decline, according to a study published in the journal Cancer.

Researchers found that after treatment, there was higher DNA damage and lower telomerase activity.

This lowered activity leads to complaints of fatigue, pain and memory disturbance, leading to cognitive decline. Post-treatment care could not control the damage that the cells faced during treatment.

Dr T.S. Rao, senior oncologist at the Indo-American Cancer Centre, explained, “Radiation and chemotherapy show good results in treatment but the side-effects have been a challenge for long. Targeted therapy and immunotherapy are also being given to patients where this damage is controlled.” He said there are now more cancer survivors hence there is a major stress on their quality of life after treatment. “With survivors come the data on what are their specific problems and how there can be improvement,” Dr Rao said.

The cancer survivors are at increased risk of early disability due to their compromised condition, leading to chronic diseases, infections and also cognitive decline. The study found that drugs in chemotherapy and radiation caused damage to the DNA of normal cells and this contributed to accelerated biological ageing.

Dr Sai Ram, senior oncologist at MNJ Cancer Hospital, said the ageing of the body due to treatment was because of the overuse of the immune system to protect healthy cells. “When this happens during the treatment, the body undergoes a major transformation. Blood markers are now allowing us to understand the treatment methods in a better way than before,” Dr Sai Ram said.

Doctors are looking more at blood markers during the course of treatment. The study according to oncologists has also pointed to the cognitive decline which is presently not being considered during treatment. Evaluating it will help the patient lead a better quality of life.

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