Shelli Kesler from the Stanford University School of Medicine in California evaluated 25 breast cancer patients that had been treated with chemotherapy, 19 breast cancer patients that had surgery, and 18 healthy women, as part of her study. All the women were instructed to solve various problems and complete a variety of tasks. They also filled out questionnaires about their perceived cognitive abilities.
During the process, researchers monitored the women’s brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and discovered that those in the chemotherapy group had reduced cognitive ability in three key areas of the brain’s prefrontal cortex — two of the areas were associated with working memory, cognitive control, and monitoring, while the other was associated with executive function, or the area where planning activities take place in the brain.
“This is a huge validation for these women who are telling their doctors ‘something is wrong with me’,” Kesler is quoted as saying by Reuters Health. “This shows that when a patient reports she is struggling with these types of problems, there’s a good chance there has been a brain change.”
That any doctor would even deny a potential link between chemotherapy and brain damage in the first place is quite disturbing. Chemotherapy drugs, of course, are widely known to damage both healthy and malignant cells in the body — and many chemotherapy drugs admittedly cause permanent DNA, heart, and other damage.
And the new findings give breast cancer patients yet another valid reason to reconsider going the conventional treatment route. With so many other safe, alternative methods of breast cancer prevention and treatment, why would any woman want to subject herself to potentially permanent brain and other damage caused by chemotherapy?