Cognitive Impairment

Cognitive Impairment

Cognitive impairment has been defined as a decline in function in one or multiple cognitive domains, including attention and concentration, executive function, information processing speed, language, visuospatial skill, psychomotor ability, and/or learning and memory. Patients with cancer often have referred to such problems as "chemo-brain" or "chemo fog," although patients who have not received chemotherapy also have reported this experience.

Among adults, cognitive impairment has been reported in up to 80% of patients with brain tumors, 70%–80% of patients with lung cancer, and 40% of patients with acute myeloid leukemia. It has also been reported in up to 75% of patients with breast cancer and in patients treated with bone marrow transplantation after high-dose chemotherapy. Cognitive impairment can continue for a long time after completion of treatment. Individuals treated for childhood cancers may have long-term changes in cognitive function, and early research in this area led to adjustment in treatments to lessen this potential effect.

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This topic was updated on June 2, 2016.

2011–2017 Authors

Catherine E. Jansen, PhD, RN, CNS, AOCNS®, Diane Von Ah, PhD, RN, Deborah Hutchinson Allen, PhD, RN, AOCNP®, John D. Merriman, PhD, RN, AOCNS®, Jamie S. Myers, PhD, RN, AOCNS®, and Jennifer Wulff, RN, MN, ARNP, AOCNP®

ONS Staff: Margaret M. Irwin, PhD, RN, MN, Lee Ann Johnson, PhD, RN, Christine M. Maloney, BA, Kerri A. Moriarty, MLS, and Mark Vrabel, MLS, AHIP, ELS


2010 Authors

Diane Von Ah, PhD, RN, Rachel Behrendt, DNP, MSN, APN-C, AOCNS®, Phyllis Gagnon, RN, BSN, OCN®, Deborah Hutchinson Allen, MSN, CNS, FNPBC, AOCNP®, Catherine Jansen, PhD, RN, CNS, OCN®, Rosalina M. Schiavone, RN, BSN, OCN®, and Jennifer Wulff, RN, MN, ARNP, AOCNP®

ONS Staff: Margaret Irwin, PhD, RN, MN