Chemotherapy, a common form of cancer treatment, has been found to cause short-term structural changes in the brain, according to a new study.
Although there have been repeated complaints from patients claiming to suffer problems with memory and problem-solving in the past, there has been little data to support physical changes in the brain until now.
However, a new study by researchers from the Breast Cancer Survivors' Brain MRI Database Group in Japan looked at high-resolution images of patients' brains, which were obtained using MRI scans.
The researchers looked at specific areas of the brain in patients who had received chemotherapy for breast cancer and compared those areas with patients who had not undergone chemotherapy.
Images showed that those patients who had received chemotherapy exhibited significantly smaller regions of the brain associated with memory, analysis and other cognitive functions within 12 months of undergoing treatment.
The structural changes were found to rectify themselves within four years of treatment and the researchers concluded that "adjuvant chemotherapy could have a temporary effect on brain structure".
Writing in the journal Cancer, they said that the structural brain changes were a result of the chemotherapy itself, rather than a secondary effect of the cancer, as some researchers had proposed.