Cognitive Dysfunction Following Adjuvant Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer: Two Case Studies

Karen K. Paraska

Catherine M. Bender

ONF 2003, 30(3), 473-478. DOI: 10.1188/03.ONF.473-478

Purpose/Objectives: To describe the cognitive dysfunction experienced by two women after they received adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer and to discuss the potential role of changes in reproductive status and depression in the development of cognitive dysfunction.

Data Sources: Journal articles, research data, and clinical experience.

Data Synthesis: Following chemotherapy, 17%-50% of women with breast cancer experience cognitive dysfunction that may include decrements in memory, attention, and psychomotor efficiency. One mechanism that may contribute to cognitive dysfunction involves changes in reproductive status resulting from chemotherapy. Additionally, the presence of depression may confound the experience of cognitive dysfunction.

Conclusions: A comprehensive description of cognitive dysfunction and improved understanding of the interrelationships among cognitive dysfunction, reproductive hormone levels, and depression in women with breast cancer receiving adjuvant chemotherapy may hasten the development of interventions for the management of cognitive dysfunction.

Implications for Nursing: Nurses should teach women with breast cancer and their families about the potential for cognitive dysfunction after chemotherapy so the problem can be recognized and interventions can be implemented to help women compensate for the dysfunction.

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