Neurocognitive deficits in older patients with cancer

J Geriatr Oncol. 2018 Sep;9(5):482-487. doi: 10.1016/j.jgo.2018.02.010. Epub 2018 Mar 9.


Objective: To assess cognitive function in older adults undergoing cancer care.

Materials and methods: This is a cross-sectional study, in the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, in older adults undergoing cancer care. Comprehensive geriatric assessments were conducted prior to surgery, chemotherapy or allogeneic stem cell transplantation, at the Program for Healthy Aging from January 1, 2013 through March 31, 2015. Cognitive assessment was conducted through personal and family interview, and the Montreal cognitive assessment (MoCA). Functional, physical, nutritional, social support, comorbidity assessment and medication review were conducted.

Analysis: Patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia were compared to patients who were cognitively intact.

Results: One hundred and ninety-two patients underwent geriatric assessment, mean (±SD) age was 78 ± 7 years, 121 (63%) had some degree of neurocognitive deficit, with 64 patients (33%) presenting with major neurocognitive deficit (dementia), and 57 cases (30%), minor neurocognitive deficit (MCI). Early stage dementia was evident in 50% of cases, moderate stage in 32%, and severe stage in 18%. The prevalence of dementia and MCI were higher than in the general population studies (70-79 years). Associated factors for neurocognitive deficits as compared to older patients with cancer with normal cognition, included a higher comorbidity index (p = 0.04), stroke (p = 0.03), metastatic disease (p = 0.04), and warfarin use (p = 0.03).

Conclusion: Neurocognitive deficits (MCI and dementia) are more common in older adults with cancer. Factors associated with neurocognitive deficits include high comorbidity, stroke, warfarin use and metastatic cancer. Identification and management of these conditions is of great relevance in the course of cancer therapy.

Keywords: Dementia; Disability; Functional impairment; Memory loss; Mild cognitive impairment; Strokes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dementia / diagnosis
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*