Assessment of Cognitive Impairment and Complaints in Individuals With Colorectal Cancer

Moira A Visovatti

Patricia A Reuter-Lorenz

Alfred E. Chang

Laurel L. Northouse

Bernadine Cimprich

colorectal cancer, cognitive, survivorship
ONF 2016, 43(2), 169-178. DOI: 10.1188/16.ONF.43-02AP

Purpose/Objectives: To assess cognitive function in individuals with colorectal cancer (CRC) and identify factors associated with cognitive effects.

Design: Cross-sectional, comparative design.

Setting: Midwest hospital.

Sample: Men and women with (n = 50) and without (n = 50) CRC.

Methods: Comparative and regression analyses were performed to assess the relationship between cognition and CRC.

Main Research Variables: Attention, cognitive control, and memory function were assessed with neuropsychological tests and self-report.

Findings: Compared to healthy volunteers, individuals with CRC performed worse and reported more problems on tasks requiring attention and cognitive control (p < 0.05). After controlling for covariates, poorer performance on tasks of attention and cognitive control was associated (p < 0.001) with having CRC, older age, and less education. In contrast, poorer perceived attention and cognitive control were associated (p < 0.001) with greater fatigue but not CRC.

Conclusions: Individuals with CRC are vulnerable to cognitive problems. In addition, older age, less education, and fatigue can increase risk for worse cognitive performance and self-reported cognition.

Implications for Nursing: Cognitive problems can profoundly affect an individual’s ability to function in everyday life and cope with cancer. Nurses should assess for cognitive problems in patients with CRC and intervene to reduce distress.

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