Cancer-related cognitive impairment and associated factors in a sample of older male oral-digestive cancer survivors

Natalie G. Regier, Aanand D. Naik, Elizabeth A. Mulligan, Ziad S. Nasreddine, Jane A. Driver, Yvonne H.F. Sada, Jennifer Moye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This study examines the demographic and clinical variables associated with cancer-related cognitive impairment (CRCI) in a sample of older, male, oral-digestive cancer survivors at VA Medical Centers in Boston and Houston. Methods: A two-time point, longitudinal design was used, with cognitive assessment conducted at 6 and 18 months post-diagnosis. Using ANCOVA, the cognitive functioning of 88 older adults with head and neck, esophageal, gastric, or colorectal cancers was compared with that of 88 healthy controls. Paired t-tests examined cognitive change over time in the cancer group. Hierarchical linear regression examined variables potentially associated with cognitive impairment at 18 months. Results: Forty-eight percent of cancer patients exhibited cognitive impairment 6 months post-cancer diagnosis, and 40% at 18 months. Cancer survivors were impaired relative to controls on measures of sustained attention, memory, and verbal fluency at 18 months, controlling for age. Older age, low hemoglobin, and cancer-related PTSD were associated with worse cognition at 18 months. Conclusions: CRCI is more frequent in older adults than reported in studies of younger adults and may be more frequent in men. Potential areas of intervention for CRCI include psychotherapy for cancer-related PTSD, treatment of anemia, and awareness of particularly vulnerable cognitive domains such as sustained attention, memory, and verbal fluency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1551-1558
Number of pages8
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • PTSD
  • anemia
  • attention
  • cancer
  • cancer survivorship
  • cancer-related cognitive impairment
  • memory
  • oncology
  • phonemic fluency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Oncology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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