Cognitive dysfunctions in elderly cancer patients: a new challenge for oncologists

Cancer Treat Rev. 2014 Jul;40(6):810-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ctrv.2014.03.003. Epub 2014 Mar 20.


While chemotherapy is more commonly proposed to the elderly population with cancer, little is known about the impact of therapy on cognitive functions and the way of managing such dysfunctions in clinical practice among this population. Aging by itself is associated with cognitive modifications, comorbidities and functional decline, which may have a significant impact on the autonomy. In elderly patients with cancer, several factors like the biologic processes underlying the disease and therapies will contribute to favor the cognitive decline. The chemobrain phenomenon, referring to the chemotherapy-induced impairment of memory, executive function or information processing speed has been extensively described in patients with breast cancer, and the few studies available in older patients suggest that the impact could be more pronounced in patients with pre-existing troubles. Because cognitive dysfunction may impact the quality of life as well as compliance to treatment, assessing cognitive dysfunctions in the elderly cancer population is a challenge in clinical practice as it should influence the choice of the most appropriate therapy, including oral drugs. In that respect, geriatric assessment in oncology should include more sensitive screening tests than Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) and if needed they have to be completed with a more detailed assessment of subtle disorders.

Keywords: Cancer; Chemotherapy; Cognition; Elderly; Oncogeriatric assessment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Comorbidity
  • Executive Function
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Thinking


  • Antineoplastic Agents