Alterations in brain structure related to breast cancer and its treatment: Chemotherapy and other considerations

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Cognitive effects of cancer and its treatment have been a topic of increasing investigation over the past ~30 years. Recent studies have focused on better understanding the neural correlates of these effects, with an emphasis on post-chemotherapy effects in breast cancer patients. Structural MRI studies have utilized both automated and manual approaches to quantify gray and white matter characteristics (e.g., regional volume and density) in breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy relative to patients who did not receive chemotherapy and/or healthy controls. While most work to date has been retrospective, a small number of baseline (pre-systemic therapy) and prospective longitudinal studies have been conducted. Data have consistently shown lower gray and white matter volume and density in patients treated with chemotherapy, particularly in frontal and temporal brain regions. Host factors and/or the cancer disease process and other therapies (e.g., antiestrogen treatment) also seem likely to contribute to the observed differences, though the relative contributions of these effects have not yet been investigated in detail. These structural abnormalities have been shown to relate to subjective and objective cognitive functioning, as well as to biological factors that may help to elucidate the underlying mechanism(s). This review examines the currently available published observations and discusses the major themes and promising directions for future studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)374-387
Number of pages14
JournalBrain Imaging and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


  • Brain
  • Breast cancer
  • Chemotherapy
  • Frontal lobes
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Neuroimaging
  • Voxel-basedmorphometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Neurology

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