Researchers find cancer therapies affect cognitive functioning among breast cancer survivors

April 20, 2012

Researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center and colleagues at the University of South Florida and University of Kentucky have found that breast cancer survivors who have had chemotherapy, radiation or both do not perform as well on some cognitive tests as women who have not had cancer.

They published their study in the April 1 issue of Cancer.

"Survivors of breast cancer are living longer, so there is a need to better understand the long-term effects of cancer therapies, such as and radiation," said study lead author Paul B. Jacobsen, Ph.D., associate center director for Population Sciences.

To carry out their study, the researchers recruited 313 women being treated by either chemotherapy or radiotherapy for early stage at Moffitt Cancer Center and the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center. Those who had undergone treatment for cancer were tested six months after treatment and then tested again 36 months after having completed treatment.

They also recruited a control group of women who did not have cancer. These participants were also tested at six months and 36 months.

Participants in all groups were within five years of age, and were matched with noncancer patients who lived in their same ZIP codes. Participants were tested cognitively with respect to processing speed (quick task completion under pressure), executive functioning (ability to shift cognitive sets and solve novel problems), the two domains expected to be most affected by chemotherapy. They were also tested with regard to verbal abilities.

"Our findings were partially consistent with prior research," explained Jacobsen. "We found that chemotherapy-treated patients performed worse than noncancer controls in processing speed, executive functioning and verbal ability. These domains may be the domains most affected by chemotherapy."

The also found test results for the radiotherapy group to be similar to the results of those in the chemotherapy group. Additionally, they discovered that the noncancer group improved in these cognitive abilities over time while the chemotherapy and radiotherapy groups did not. There were no differences in performance between the radiotherapy and chemotherapy groups, noted the researchers.

The researchers commented that they were fortunate for having included the radiotherapy groups because their results were so similar to the chemotherapy group. Had that group not been included, conclusions could have been drawn to suggest that the cognitive differences between the noncancer group and the chemotherapy group were specific to chemotherapy.

"Since patients report cognitive problems that interfere with their daily activities, early workups should include tests to determine cognitive functioning prior to treatment," concluded Jacobsen. "Future research also needs to investigate factors that may affect both chemotherapy patients and those receiving radiotherapy. Providers may wish to communicate that such effects can accompany chemotherapy and radiation therapy."

Explore further: Breast cancer survivors struggle with cognitive problems several years after treatment

Related Stories

Breast cancer survivors struggle with cognitive problems several years after treatment

December 12, 2011
A new analysis has found that breast cancer survivors may experience problems with certain mental abilities several years after treatment, regardless of whether they were treated with chemotherapy plus radiation or radiation ...

Follow-up study finds prolonged fatigue for those who had chemotherapy for breast cancer

December 5, 2011
In a follow-up study, researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center and colleagues have found that patients who receive chemotherapy for breast cancer might experience prolonged fatigue years after their therapy. The new study, published ...

First study on long-term cognitive effects of breast cancer CMF chemotherapy finds subtle impairment

February 27, 2012
Dutch investigators have reported that women who received CMF chemotherapy (a combination regimen including the drugs cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and 5-fluorouracil) for breast cancer between 1976 and 1995 scored worse ...

Chemotherapy is as effective before breast cancer surgery as after

September 8, 2011
Whether chemotherapy is given before or after breast-conserving therapy (BCT) does not have an impact on long-term local-regional outcomes, suggesting treatment success is due more to biologic factors than chemotherapy timing, ...

Recommended for you

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

Novel CRISPR-Cas9 screening enables discovery of new targets to aid cancer immunotherapy

July 19, 2017
A novel screening method developed by a team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center—using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology to test the function of thousands of tumor genes in mice—has ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.