“Although cancer patients frequently experience short-term cognitive deficits, little is known about how long these deficits last or whether they worsen over time. Now, data from a large national sample suggest that cognitive deficits may persist long term.
When compared with matched individuals who were without cancer, long-term cancer survivors performed worse on a test of processing speed, attention, and learning and working memory involving executive functions domains. Cancer survivors also more frequently problems with memory and confusion, even after adjusting for confounders, such as age and education level.
These effects appeared to be greater in long-term vs short-term cancer survivors, but age seemed to be a factor. Cancer survivors aged 60 to 75 years had worse performance on the cognition test as compared with those older than 75 years…
Although it is too soon to understand how this information will affect current therapeutic approaches to older patients, Dr Markham said: “Clearly, we should be mindful of the impact of our treatments on cognition in patients of all ages, including the advanced age population.”
Study: Cognitive function in cancer survivors: Analysis of the 1999–2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (abstract presented at the 2016 Cancer Survivorship Symposium)
- Background: Cancer and its treatment may affect cognitive function in up to 35% of survivors months after treatment. While short-term treatment-related cognitive changes are well recognized, only limited research is available in older, long-term survivors of cancer.
- Conclusions: This is the only study to examine domain specific cognitive deficits in a large, nationally representative, older population of long-term cancer survivors and the first to report deficits in processing speed, attention, and learning and working memory domains. These domains are thought to be important for social and executive functioning and quality of life. Characterizing affected domains and subpopulations will help to develop and test effective interventions and may influence treatment practices in older cancer patients.
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