Systematic review of cognitive sequelae of non-central nervous system cancer and cancer therapy

Noemí Cerulla Torrente*, José Blas Navarro Pastor, Nuria de la Osa Chaparro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The aim of this review is to provide an updated overview of chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment (CRCI) in patients with cancer outside central nervous system (CNS), its incidence and prevalence, the cognitive pattern in neuropsychological studies, neuroimaging findings, and the relationship between chemobrain and aging. Methodological limitations of studies are also discussed. Methods: This review was guided by the PRISMA statement. The MEDLINE and Scopus databases were employed to search articles about CRCI in non-CNS cancer patients published from January 2004 to September 2019. Two types of research were reviewed: prospective studies addressing the effects of chemotherapy on cognition and systematic reviews about factors related with CRCI, also as neuroimaging findings and current available treatments. Results: Fifty-nine studies meeting the criteria were analyzed: 47 were longitudinal studies on cancer and cognition and 12 were reviews on risk factors, neuroimaging, and treatment. The majority of studies find cognitive impairment in patients with cancer treated with chemotherapy. The body of the literature on breast cancer is the most abundant, but there are also studies on colorectal, testicular, and lung cancer. Neuroimaging studies show changes in structure and activation in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Non-pharmacological treatment is effective for improving cognition and quality of life. Conclusions: The occurrence of CRCI during the course of treatment in people with different types of cancer is frequent. Some risk factors have been identified, but CRCI is a complex phenomenon, with mediating factors related to cancer and treatment and moderating factors related with lifestyle and health. Implications for Cancer Survivors: This review highlights the importance of recognizing that this cognitive dysfunction is frequent, mild to moderate in nature but with great impact on quality of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)464-482
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • Cancer
  • Chemobrain
  • Chemotherapy
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Neuropsychology


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