Cognitive impairment and chemotherapy: a brief overview

Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2017 Oct:118:7-14. doi: 10.1016/j.critrevonc.2017.08.001. Epub 2017 Aug 14.


Patients with cancer are experiencing long-term survival following chemotherapy, but the treatment may also be associated with short and long-term toxicity, including the possibility of cognitive dysfunction. A literature overview indicated a significant association between chemotherapy and cognitive impairment but prospective longitudinal research is warranted to examine the degree and persisting nature of this decline. Although chemotherapeutic agents are unlikely to cross the blood-brain barrier, it has been alleged that the occurrence of neurotoxicity is linked to the pro-inflammatory cytokine pathways. Moreover in most cases many other factors could play an ancillary and concomitant role. The contribution of hormone therapy as well as emotional, social, behavioural and genetic factors should always be considered. Especially physical activity and cognitive training appear promising in the management of cognitive impairment but additional studies are required to establish their efficacy.

Keywords: Cancer; Chemotherapy-related toxicity; Cognitive impairment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / chemically induced*
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cytokines