Written by Loren Grush
For many cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, memory problems and a general mental haziness often plague them during and after treatment.
The condition – known as ‘chemo brain’ – has only been a reported phenomenon, without ever having been fully verified through scientific measures – until now.
Thanks to new research utilizing positron emission tomography combined with computed tomography (PET/CT), researchers have identified physiological evidence of chemo brain, proving it to be a very real medical condition.
According to the study’s lead researcher Rachel Lagos, all of the previous research that has been done on chemo brain has used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine changes in the brain during chemotherapy.
However, this method only allows medical professionals to see changes in the brain’s appearance – which are usually very small.
By choosing to examine PET/CT brain imagining, Lagos said she was able to see how chemotherapy affects changes in brain function over time.
“With MR examination, we’re able to see structural change in the brain – areas that get broken down over time,” Lagos, a diagnostic radiology resident at the West University School of Medicine and West Virginia University Hospitals in Morgantown, W.Va., told FoxNews.com.
“But with PET/CT imaging, we’re able to see how the brain is using energy. So you get an earlier glimpse of areas of the brain which are being affected by chemo, as they’re starting to use less energy, and then eventually you would see the structural changes in MR examination."
PET/CT scanning is a type of nuclear medical imaging, which allows doctors to diagnose and understand the aggressiveness of certain kinds of cancers.
People who are diagnosed with cancer regularly get PET/CT scans so that doctors can better exam other areas of the body where the cancer may have spread. One such area that is observed through PET/CT imaging is the brain.
To gather their findings, Lagos and her colleagues analyzed PET/CT scans of 128 breast cancer patients who had undergone chemotherapy treatment under Lagos’ care.