Breast cancer survivors treated with chemotherapy sometimes exhibit cognitive problems years after treatment, but now researchers have found the same problems can afflict those who received radiation treatment without chemotherapy.
Published in the journal CANCER, the new study indicates that there may be common and treatment-specific ways that cancer therapies negatively affect survivors' mental abilities.
Previously, researchers had discovered that chemotherapy can cause problems with memory and concentration in breast cancer survivors. To compare the effects of different types of cancer treatment on mental abilities, Paul Jacobsen, of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, examined 62 breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy plus radiation, 67 patients treated with radiation only, and 184 women with no history of cancer.
Jacobsen confirmed that chemotherapy can cause cognitive problems in breast cancer survivors that persist for three years after they finish treatment. But in addition, he found that breast cancer survivors who had been treated with radiation (and not chemotherapy) often experienced problems similar to those in breast cancer survivors treated with both chemotherapy and radiation.
"These findings suggest that the problems some breast cancer survivors have with their mental abilities are not due just to the administration of chemotherapy," said Jacobsen. "Our findings also provide a more complete picture of the impact of cancer treatment on mental abilities."
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