How Does Chemo and Hormonal Therapy Effect Brains of Breast Cancer Patients?


Side effects found to make it harder for patients to concentrate.

Side effects found to make it harder for patients to concentrate.

Beyond the physical and emotional toll suffered by breast cancer patients during treatment, a clinical trial plans to evaluate the impact treatment for the disease has on mental cognition.

The trial, conducted by the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, will explore the side effects chemotherapy and hormonal therapy have on the brain.

Commonly known as “chemo brain,” these side effects make it more difficult for patients to concentrate, decrease memory, and make it harder for patients to perform tasks that require rapid or precise hand movements. All of these have a derogatory impact on a patient’s quality of life. The study evaluate how these treatments cause changes that occur inside the brain and the subsequent effect on hand movements.

Patients enrolled in the study will come for up to 3 visits every 4 to 6 months during the course of chemotherapy or hormonal treatment. During the visit, patients will undergo a brain imaging scan and a test to evaluate the health of the brain and nervous system through the utilization of a magnetic pulse.

Patients also will have their brain activity and function measured as they perform specific tasks.

“The brain typically recovers from these cognitive side effects over time, but subtle changes can sometimes persist for years,” referring physician Serena Wong, MD, said in a press release. “This study will enable investigators to better understand the relationship between cancer treatments and brain function. Our goal is to find ways to minimize or even prevent the effects of ‘chemo brain,’ thus helping to improve the patient’s quality of life.”

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