Indiana University Logo It now seems that chemotherapy hampers a patient’s brain tissue, or at least the following piece of information suggests so. Scientists from the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center have supposedly showed that breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy have changes in brain tissue. It was claimed that the cognitive effects of chemotherapy is known to researchers as chemobrain.

Having employed brain imaging, experts revealed that women with breast cancer subjected to chemotherapy get their gray matter affected before and after treatment. During the study, investigators assessed structural brain MRI scans of patients with breast cancer and healthy controls. These scans were taken before radiation or chemotherapy and after surgery so that a baseline is achieved. On completion of chemotherapy, after a month and a year scans were repeated. Alterations in gray matter were seemingly discovered in areas of the brain that are consistent with cognitive dysfunction during and shortly after chemotherapy. A year after chemotherapy, density of gray matter appeared to improve.

Andrew Saykin, Psy.D, director of the Indiana University Center for Neuroimaging and a researcher at the IU Simon Cancer Center, elucidated, “This is the first prospective study. These analyses, led by Brenna McDonald, suggest an anatomic basis for the cognitive complaints and performance changes seen in patients. Memory and executive functions like multi-tasking and processing speed are the most typically affected functions and these are handled by the brain regions where we detected gray matter changes.”

Subtle effects were observed in most patients. Though relatively rare, some patients, especially middle-aged women, affected were probably unable to resume work. Generally women may be capable of working and multi-tasking, but with a great difficulty. The investigations remained focused on 17 breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy after surgery, 12 women with breast cancer not subjected to chemotherapy after surgery, and 18 women without breast cancer.

The study will be in the October 2010 edition of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.