Massage therapy has been shown to decrease stress, pain and anxiety in cancer patients, in numerous research studies.

New, unrelated, research indicates stress contributes to cognitive declines in women with breast cancer.

Women undergoing treatment for breast cancer can experience cognitive declines, such as decreased verbal fluency or loss of memory and attention, according to a press release from the Health Psychology Department at the University of Missouri School of Health Professions

Often experienced by patients undergoing chemotherapy, the declines have become known as chemo brain, according to the press release. However, a health psychologist at the University of Missouri says chemo brain isn’t always to blame.

Stephanie Reid-Arndt, an associate professor and chair of the Health Psychology Department in the MU School of Health Professions, found that women who had undergone surgery for breast cancer but who had not yet received chemotherapy or hormone-replacement therapy experienced similar cognitive deficits as women undergoing chemotherapy. Patients who were stressed and had passive coping strategies to deal with their stress were more likely to experience cognitive declines, according to the press release.

“Women who reported higher stress levels also performed lower on memory and attention tests,” Reid-Arndt said. “It appeared that passive coping strategies, such as denial, disengagement and helplessness, contributed to this relationship. This suggests lacking proactive ways to deal with stress can contribute to patients’ experience of cognitive difficulties.”

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