Breast Cancer Survivors Have Impaired Neurological Function

Additional reductions in prefrontal function, decreased executive function post-chemo

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Breast cancer (BC) survivors have significantly reduced activation of the prefrontal cortex, with additional reductions in prefrontal function and poorer executive functioning for women treated with chemotherapy, according to a study published in the November issue of the Archives of Neurology.

Shelli R. Kesler, Ph.D., from Stanford Cancer Center in Palo Alto, Calif., and colleagues examined prefrontal executive functioning in BC survivors with or without a history of chemotherapy treatment versus healthy controls. The associations between prefrontal activation and behavioral impairments were examined, and demographic and disease variables were explored. Participants were matched for age and demographics, and included 25 BC survivors treated with chemotherapy, 19 survivors who did not receive chemotherapy, and 18 healthy controls.

The investigators found that activation of the left middle dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and premotor cortex were significantly reduced in women with BC compared to healthy women. Compared to the healthy and no chemotherapy groups, women who received chemotherapy had significantly reduced activation of the left caudal lateral prefrontal cortex, increased perseverative errors, and reduced processing speed. In chemotherapy-treated women, reduced activation of the left caudal lateral prefrontal cortex was significantly correlated with higher disease severity and increased subjective executive dysfunction; while older age and lower education levels were predictors of greater executive function impairments.

"These findings provide further evidence of neurological impairment associated with primary BC irrespective of treatment history," the authors write.

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