(HealthDay News) — Compared with non-cancer controls, patients with breast cancer treated with chemotherapy have more cognitive difficulties up to six months after treatment, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Michelle C. Janelsins, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, and colleagues conducted a large, prospective, nationwide study involving 581 patients with breast cancer from community oncology clinics and 364 age-matched non-cancer controls. Participants completed the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Cognitive Function (FACT-Cog) at pre-chemotherapy and post-chemotherapy, and at a six-month follow-up.

The researchers found that, compared with controls, patients reported significantly greater cognitive difficulties on the FACT-Cog total score and four subscales from pre-chemotherapy to post-chemotherapy and from pre-chemotherapy to six-month follow-up (all P < 0.001). There were significant correlations for increased baseline anxiety, depression, and decreased cognitive reserve with lower FACT-Cog total scores. From post-chemotherapy to six-month follow-up, there was no significant correlation for treatment regimen, hormone, or radiation therapy with FACT-Cog total scores in patients. Compared with controls, patients were more likely to report a clinically significant decline in self-reported cognitive function from pre- to post-chemotherapy (45.2 versus 10.4 percent) and from pre-chemotherapy to six-month follow-up (36.5 versus 13.6 percent).

RELATED: Second Opinions for Breast Cancer Treatment: Factors and Effects

“Patients with breast cancer who were treated in community oncology clinics report substantially more cognitive difficulties up to six months after treatment with chemotherapy than do age-matched non-cancer controls,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the biopharmaceutical industry.


  1. Janelsins MC, Heckler CE, Peppone LJ, et al. Cognitive complaints in survivors of breast cancer after chemotherapy compared with age-matched controls; an analysis from a nationwide, multicenter, prospective longitudinal study. J Clin Oncol. 2016 Dec 28. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2016.68.5826. [Epub ahead of print.]