Breast cancer chemotherapy-related cognitive dysfunction

Clin Breast Cancer. 2002 Dec;3 Suppl 3:S84-90. doi: 10.3816/cbc.2002.s.018.


Cognitive side effects of systemic chemotherapy have become an increasing concern among breast cancer survivors, their families, and health care professionals. A growing body of research supports the hypothesis that chemotherapy can produce long-term cognitive changes in at least a subgroup of cancer survivors. We review evidence implicating systemic chemotherapy as the cause of cognitive changes; describe the limitations due to lack of longitudinal studies and gaps in knowledge (ie, no clear mechanism by which chemotherapy can produce cognitive changes has been proposed); discuss possible factors like age, intelligence quotient/education, and psychological, genetic, and hormonal factors that might increase risk for chemotherapy-induced cognitive changes; and outline future directions for research. Such future research includes large-scale, longitudinal studies of pretreatment neuropsychological assessments, use of imaging techniques and the development of animal models to study the mechanisms of chemotherapy-induced changes in cognitive functioning, and the development of interventions to prevent or reduce the negative cognitive effects of chemotherapy

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant / adverse effects
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Mastectomy / methods
  • Prognosis
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index