Breast cancer patients who are treated with chemotherapy and surgery are worse on cognitive function tests than patients treated with surgery alone, suggesting that 'chemo-brain' or 'mental fog' does exist for real, according to a new study.
Scientists studied 25 breast cancer survivors who had surgery and chemotherapy, 19 breast cancer survivors who had surgery but no chemotherapy, and 18 women with no history of breast cancer. As Compared to the women who had no history of breast cancer, both the two groups of breast cancer patients demonstrated significantly reduced activation in the prefrontal cortex of the brain which is responsible for planning, reasoning and problem-solving, with women who received chemotherapy showing the most reduced activation in that part of the brain. When the women were asked how well they thought their own brains were functioning, the women who had chemotherapy reported having more problems with executive function tasks than women in the other two groups.
The findings suggest that chemotherapy may cause 'neurotoxic brain injury'. This study is published in 'Archives of Neurology'.