An update on cancer- and chemotherapy-related cognitive dysfunction: current status

Semin Oncol. 2011 Jun;38(3):431-8. doi: 10.1053/j.seminoncol.2011.03.014.


The purpose of this review is to summarize the current literature on the effects of cancer treatment-related cognitive difficulties, with a focus on the effects of chemotherapy. Numerous patients have cognitive difficulties during and after cancer treatments and, for some, these effects last years after treatment. We do not yet fully understand which factors increase susceptibility to cognitive difficulties during treatment and which cause persistent problems. We review possible contributors, including genetic and biological factors. Mostly we focus is on cognitive effects of adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer; however, cognitive effects of chemotherapy on the elderly and brain tumor patients are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / adverse effects
  • Brain Neoplasms / complications
  • Brain Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / complications
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Risk Factors


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal