Chemotherapy's Long-Term Effects Can Last a Decade or More
October 21, 2006
A UCLA study has shown that chemotherapy can change the blood flow and metabolism of the brain in ways that can linger for 10 years or more after treatment.
This could help explain the confusion, sometimes called "chemo brain," reported by many chemotherapy patients.
Positron emission tomography (PET) was used to scan the brains of 21 women who had undergone breast cancer surgery five to 10 years earlier. Sixteen had been treated with chemotherapy regimens. Thirteen control subjects, who never had breast cancer or chemotherapy, were also scanned.
The scans took place as the women performed short-term memory exercises, and while they were resting.
The scans showed that there was a rapid jump in activity in the frontal cortexes and cerebellums of the chemotherapy patients as they performed the memory tests, indicating that they were working harder than the control patients to recall the same information.
The study also revealed that women who underwent hormonal therapy in addition to chemotherapy showed changes to their basal ganglia, a part of the brain that bridges thought and action.