The effectiveness of psychosocial interventions for cognitive dysfunction in cancer patients who have received chemotherapy: a systematic review

Sonia Hines, Mary-Anne Ramis, Shannon Pike, Anne Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Chemotherapy-related cognitive dysfunction (CRCD) refers to problems with memory, attention span, or concentration, experienced by patients with cancer who have had chemotherapy. CRCD can have a significant negative effect on a patient's quality of life. The exact cause of CRCD is unknown but is presumed to be multifactorial. Objective: To conduct a systematic review of the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions designed to treat CRCD. Methods: Participants of interest to the review were over 18 years of age, diagnosed with cancer, and receiving chemotherapy or had received chemotherapy in the past. Interventions of interest were methods to improve cognitive function. Included study designs were randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental trials, and quantitative observational studies. The primary outcome of interest was level of cognitive function. A three-step search strategy was utilized to identify studies published from 1985 to 2011 from a wide range of databases. Joanna Briggs Institute systematic review methods were used but findings were analyzed using the Cochrane Collaboration Review Manager 5.1 program. Weighted mean differences with 95% confidence intervals were calculated from the continuous data. Results: Searching identified 3,109 potentially relevant articles and 120 full-text articles were retrieved. Two further papers were sourced from reference lists of retrieved articles. From 122 papers, six were suitable for critical appraisal and six were included in the analysis. Meta-analysis was conducted on two cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) trials for the outcome of inability to concentrate. Significant effect was seen for one CBT intervention at 20 weeks (p =004). Significant effect from CBT on quality of life was seen at 6-month follow-up (p <05). Conclusions: Despite some evidence of an effect, there is insufficient evidence at this stage to strongly recommend any of the interventions to assist in decreasing the effects of CRCD, except in terms of improving quality of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-193
Number of pages7
JournalWorldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • cognitive function
  • chemotherapy
  • systematic review
  • Chemotherapy-related cognitive dysfunction
  • Chemotherapy
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Oncology
  • Systematic review
  • Cognitive function


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