Background: There is conflicting evidence on the effect of chemotherapy and psychosocial distress on perceived cognitive changes in cancer patients.
Objective: To compare the severity of perceived cognitive disturbance in Asian breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and those not receiving chemotherapy, and identify clinical characteristics associated with perceived cognitive disturbances.
Methods: A cross-sectional, observational study was conducted at the largest cancer center in Singapore. Breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and not receiving chemotherapy completed the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Cognitive Function (FACT-Cog), European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (QLQ-C30), and Beck Anxiety Inventory to assess their perceived cognitive functioning, health-related quality of life, and anxiety, respectively. Multiple regression was conducted to delineate the factors associated with perceived cognitive disturbances.
Results: A total of 85 breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and 81 not receiving chemotherapy were recruited. Chemotherapy patients experienced more fatigue (QLQ-C30 fatigue scores: 33.3 vs 22.2 points; p = 0.005) and moderate-to-severe anxiety (21.9% vs 8.6%; p = 0.002) compared to non-chemotherapy patients. Non-chemotherapy patients reported better perceived cognitive functioning than those who received chemotherapy (FACT-Cog scores: 124 vs 110 points, respectively; p < 0.001). Chemotherapy and endocrine therapy were strongly associated with perceived cognitive disturbances (p < 0.001 and 0.021, respectively). The interacting effect between anxiety and fatigue was moderately associated with perceived cognitive disturbances (β = -0.29; p = 0.037).
Conclusions: Chemotherapy and endocrine treatment were associated with significant cognitive disturbances among Asian breast cancer patients. Psychosocial factors could be used to identify cancer patients who are more susceptible to cognitive disturbances in the clinical setting.