Understanding Changes in Thinking and Memory

Thursday 9 August, 2018

A recent systematic review by Bray, Dhillon and Vardy (2018) has reinforced the high prevalence rate of cognitive symptoms and the need for health professionals to recognise and address the issue 1.

Dr Haryana Dhillon recognises the need for more patient information and was pivotal in the creation of this new resource as lead reviewer.

“Many people diagnosed with cancer will experience decline in their cognitive function, for many it will be at its worst at the end of adjuvant therapy. The causes are likely to be multifactorial and should be considered in context with other related symptoms such as fatigue and sleep disturbance.”

“Regardless of cause, many people are frightened and distressed by their cognitive symptoms. Talk with them about possible cognitive changes so they are prepared and know they may need to work at recovery. Exercise and improved sleep quality are likely to help many recover, for some psychological support will help, and others again may benefit from brain training exercises.”

Understanding Changes in Thinking and Memory can be used in discussions with patients and carers around the following topics:

  • What is cancer-related cognitive impairment?
  • How can thinking and memory be affected?
  • What causes cognitive changes?
  • Who is affected?
  • How long does it last?
  • Effects and management
  • Cognitive rehabilitation

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A complementary podcast Brain Fog and Cancer is also available to download from Cancer Council NSW

Listen to podcast

Health Professionals’ views and evaluation: Understanding Changes in Thinking and Memory factsheet.

How often do your patients report changes in cognitive function? University of Sydney are conducting research to explore the views and experiences of Medical Oncologists, Nurses or Clinical Psychologists related to patient reported cognitive impairment and perceptions of the utility of the factsheet as a resource to manage the impact. The study involves a brief survey and taking part in a telephone interview.  Please visit http://bit.ly/CancerCognitionStudy if you are interested in participating.

  1. Bray VJ, Dhillon HM & Vardy JL (2018) Systematic review of self-reported cognitive function in cancer patients following chemotherapy treatment. Journal of Cancer Survivorship 12(4): 537–559


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