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National Cancer Institute

Cognitive Changes Related to Cancer and Cancer Treatments

Cognitive changes related to cancer and cancer treatments, particularly chemotherapy, have been an important concern for investigators. Overall, research findings have demonstrated changes in several domains of cognition including working memory, new learning, executive function and spatial abilities. However, the science is not conclusive. There are challenges in the areas of measurement, generalizability of neuropsychological test results to everyday tasks, and interpreting findings across research studies. Moreover, not all cancer patients and survivors experience cognitive late effects. Determining susceptibility and identifying neural pathways remains an important area of exploration. In addition, the number of validated interventions are limited for patients suffering from these symptoms and further work is needed to provide practitioners and patients with empirically sound therapies.

The BBPSB focus expands across the cancer control continuum, examining cognition prior to treatment through end of life, including long-term survivors. In addition, we are interested in science across the lifespan continuum from in utero exposure to treatment through pediatric, adult, and elderly. The branch represents multiple points on the scientific continuum examining the challenge of cancer-related cognitive changes from the perspectives of cognitive, clinical, and neurodevelopmental psychology.

Areas of research focus within cognition include: