Systematic review of longitudinal studies on chemotherapy-associated subjective cognitive impairment in cancer patients

Hee Ju Kim, Sun Ok Jung, Hyang Kim, Ivo Abraham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objectives: This systematic review of longitudinal studies, assessing subjective cognitive impairment (SCI) reported by adult cancer patients, aimed to summarize evidence on the impact of chemotherapy on SCI, identify moderators of SCI, and evaluate methodological issues. Methods: Data accrued from Pubmed, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsychInfo, and the Cochrane library. Inclusion criteria were original studies, an exclusively adult sample, valid and reliable subjective cognitive measures, and at least one baseline data point prior to and another after the initiation of chemotherapy. Data were collected on the sample composition, data-collection time points, outcome measures, statistical analysis, and major findings (ie, longitudinal changes in prevalence, severity, and associated factors). Results: Forty articles published between 2004 and 2019 were retained: 21 examined chemotherapy-treated patients only, and 19 employed control groups. Findings were mixed, with slightly more studies supporting the impact of chemotherapy on SCI. SCI tended to be more prevalent and severe after initiating chemotherapy, compared with patients' own baseline and controls not treated with chemotherapy. Impact appeared to be acute and more likely limited to subsamples. Most studies examining non–breast-cancer samples reported the lack or limited impact of chemotherapy on SCI. The most consistent moderators were depression and fatigue. Methodological issues regarding sampling design, measurement, and statistical analysis were discussed. Conclusion: More rigorously designed longitudinal studies would clarify direct and indirect effects of chemotherapy on SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)617-631
Number of pages15
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • anxiety
  • cancer
  • cognitive function
  • cognitive impairment
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • oncology
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Oncology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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