Cognitive Effects of Chemotherapy and Cancer-Related Treatments in Older Adults

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2017 Dec;25(12):1415-1426. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2017.04.001. Epub 2017 Apr 6.


Advances in cancer treatment are producing a growing number of cancer survivors; therefore, issues surrounding quality of life during and following cancer treatment have become increasingly important. Chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment (CRCI) is a problem that is commonly reported following the administration of chemotherapy treatment in patients with cancer. Research suggests that CRCI can persist for months to years after completing treatment, which has implications for the trajectory of normal and pathologic cognitive aging for the growing number of long-term cancer survivors. These problems are particularly relevant for older individuals, given that cancer is largely a disease of older age, and the number of patients with cancer who are aged 65 years or older will increase dramatically over the coming decades. This review will briefly summarize empirical findings related to CRCI, discuss CRCI in older patients with cancer, propose potential causative hypotheses, and provide a canonical patient case to illustrate how CRCI presents clinically. Finally, potential intervention strategies for CRCI will be highlighted and issues to consider when evaluating older patients with a history of cancer will be discussed.

Keywords: Chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment; chemotherapy; cognitive impairment; subjective cognitive decline.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / chemically induced*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*