Cancer, Cognitive Impairment, and Work-Related Outcomes: An Integrative Review

Diane Von Ah

Susan Storey

Eileen Tallman

Adele Nielsen

Shelley A. Johns

Susan J. Pressler

cancer, cancer survivors, work ability, cognitive impairment
ONF 2016, 43(5), 602-616. DOI: 10.1188/16.ONF.602-616

Problem Identification: Cancer survivors often report concerns regarding their memory, attention, and ability to process information and make decisions. These problems, which have also been demonstrated on objective neuropsychological assessments, may have a significant impact on work-related outcomes.

Literature Search: A literature review was conducted using the following electronic databases: Ovid (MEDLINE®), PubMed, CINAHL®, and Web of Science. Search terms included cancer, survivors, cognitive, work, and work ability. Empirical research published in English from January 2002 to August 2015 that focused on cognitive impairment in adult cancer survivors was included in the review.

Data Evaluation: Articles were evaluated by two independent researchers.

Synthesis: Twenty-six studies met the inclusion criteria. Ten were qualitative, 15 were quantitative, and 1 had a mixed-methods design. Quantitative articles were synthesized using the integrative methodology strategies proposed by Whittemore and Knafl. Synthesis of qualitative articles was conducted using the criteria established by the Swedish Agency for Health Technology Assessment and Assessment of Social Services.

Conclusions: To date, research in this context has been limited by cognitive assessments focusing primarily on patient self-assessments of attention, concentration, and memory. Additional research is needed to examine the impact of cognitive performance and to expand work-related outcomes measures to include perceived work ability, productivity, and actual performance.

Implications for Nursing: Lack of information regarding cognitive impairment inhibits survivors’ ability to prepare, understand, and accept impending cognitive changes and how they may affect work ability. Oncology nurses can assist cancer survivors by preparing and educating them on how to better manage impairment associated with cancer and its treatment.

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