Cognitive dysfunction prevalence and associated factors in older breast cancer survivors

Adele Crouch*, Victoria L. Champion, Frederick W. Unverzagt, Susan J. Pressler, Lesa Huber, Lyndsi R. Moser, David Cella, Diane Von Ah

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence and factors associated with objective and subjective cognitive dysfunction in older breast cancer survivors (BCS). Materials and Methods: This cross-sectional descriptive study leveraged previously collected data from older BCS (n = 335). Separate linear regression models were used to determine relationships between demographic factors (age, education), medical factors (comorbidities), disease factors (time since diagnosis, cancer stage), cancer-related symptoms (depressive symptoms, anxiety, fatigue, sleep disturbance) and cognitive dysfunction measures, including objective learning, delayed recall, attention, executive function-working memory, verbal fluency and subjective attentional function. Results: Cognitive dysfunction was prevalent with up to 18.6% of older BCS experiencing mild-moderate dysfunction (1.5 standard deviations below mean of non-cancer controls) in at least one cognitive domain. Poor to moderate subjective attentional function was reported by 26% of older BCS. More depressive symptoms were significantly related to poorer cognitive function including learning (p < .01), delayed recall (p < .05), verbal fluency (p < .001), and subjective attentional function (p < .001) but not attention and executive function-working memory. Age, education, anxiety, and fatigue were also negatively associated with cognitive function in some models (p < .05–0.001). Conclusion: Cognitive dysfunction is common among older BCS and depressive symptoms, anxiety, and fatigue are related factors. Importantly, depressive symptoms were not only related to self-report, but also to cognitive performance. Healthcare providers should be aware of and assess for related factors and cognitive dysfunction itself in older BCS even years after diagnosis and treatment thorough geriatric assessment. Future longitudinal research is needed to discern these relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-39
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Geriatric Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Associated factors
  • Breast cancer survivors
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Older adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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