Self-reported chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment compared with cognitive complaints following menopause

Psychooncology. 2018 Sep;27(9):2198-2205. doi: 10.1002/pon.4796. Epub 2018 Jul 13.


Objective: Cancer-related cognitive impairment (CRCI) is commonly reported following the administration of cancer treatment. Current longitudinal studies, primarily in women with breast cancer, suggest that up to 35% to 60% of patients exhibit persistent CRCI (pCRCI) following completion of chemotherapy. Complaints of subjective cognitive decline (SCD) are also commonly reported by women during and following the menopause transition in noncancer patients. Although the majority of evidence for cognitive difficulties in cancer patients and survivors is attributed to chemotherapy, there is growing evidence to suggest that menopausal status can also influence cognitive function in cancer patients.

Methods: Given that menopausal status may be contributing to pCRCI, we compared a group of primarily postmenopausal women with pCRCI to 2 groups of postmenopausal women: women who endorse menopause-associated SCD (maSCD+) and women who do not (maSCD-) to explore the similarities/differences between maSCD and pCRCI and the potential role of menopause in pCRCI.

Results: Persistent CRCI participants report more severe SCD symptoms than women after natural menopause, despite being on average 2.5-year postchemotherapy, supporting previous findings that CRCI can persist for months to years after completing treatment. Persistent CRCI participants not only endorsed greater SCD but also exhibited objective performance differences. In addition, pCRCI participants endorsed significantly greater menopausal symptoms compared with either maSCD group. Results were not related to menopausal status prior to chemotherapy or current endocrine therapy use.

Conclusions: These results suggest that while menopausal symptoms may contribute to SCD experienced by cancer patients after chemotherapy, they do not fully account for pCRCI.

Keywords: cancer; chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment; menopause; oncology; subjective cognitive decline.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / complications
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Cancer Survivors / psychology*
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / etiology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Menopause / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Self Report