Cognitive dysfunction and cancer: which consequences in terms of disease management?

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Objectives:The aim of this review is to stress the importance of cognitive dysfunction in cancer survivors, and to discuss the way of assessing and managing these troubles in clinical practice.Method:Original studies and reviews reporting the effect of cancer and chemotherapy on cognition and published since January 2000 were selected from the Medline® database using ‘cognition’ or ‘cognitive function’ and ‘cancer’ as subject headings.Results:Main reports concerned women with advanced breast cancer or children with hematological or brain cancers. Overall, chemotherapy was found to be associated with subtle and transient cognitive dysfunctions, which were detectable only with neuropsychological testing and affected most particularly memory, concentration and speed of information processing. Some factors associated with the patient, like depression, may favor cognitive impairment, while the role of others, like age or educational level, remains to be defined. Screening of patients at risk remains limited due to the lack of standardized neuropsychological tests in clinical oncology practice. Few studies have addressed the benefits of interventional strategies but methylphenidate, modafinil and erythropoietin, as well as rehabilitation in children, have shown encouraging results. Formal studies assessing the value of a multidisciplinary approach to detect and manage cognitive impairment must be recommended.Conclusion:Cognitive dysfunction induced by cancer or the treatment represents a real challenge in clinical practice. Based on limited published data, few clinical recommendations can be made regarding prevention, evaluation and management of this trouble. Longitudinal studies must be conducted to evaluate its real impact on quality of life. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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