Cognition is the mental process of learning and understanding.
Cognition is the process of gaining knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.
The thinking process includes being able to do the following:
This summary is about cognitive changes that occur in cancer patients and cancer survivors who do not or did not have cancer in the central nervous system (brain or spinal cord).
Memory and thinking problems may occur in cancer patients and cancer survivors.
Changes in memory and thinking are common in cancer patients and cancer survivors and are to be expected. Your thinking process may change, making it harder for you to pay attention and remember information the same way as you did before your cancer treatment.
Talk to your doctor about memory and thinking problems that may happen with your type of cancer or after treatment.
Possible signs of cognitive problems include trouble learning or remembering.
Other conditions may also cause cognitive problems. Talk to your doctor if you have any of the following problems:
Cancer treatments or other diseases may cause cognitive problems.
Factors that may cause cognitive problems in cancer patients and cancer survivors include the following:
Your doctor will examine you to better understand the problems you are having.
Your doctor will do an exam to check for signs of disease. Your doctor will also ask you about factors that cause cognitive problems, and your education, job, and daily activities.
Treatment of cognitive problems may include activities that help your attention, memory, and thinking.
The goal of cognitive rehabilitation is to improve your memory, thinking, organization, and decision-making skills. Cognitive rehabilitation includes the following:
Movement therapy or exercises, such as tai chi, qigong, or yoga, may help improve your thinking and ability to focus.
Attention restoring activities may help you to focus and concentrate. These include walking, gardening, bird watching, and caring for pets.
Meditation may help improve your cognitive function. Meditation is a mind-body practice in which a person focuses his or her attention on something, such as an object, word, phrase, or breathing. This will help keep you from being distracted or having stressful thoughts or feelings. Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a type of meditation that focuses on bringing attention and awareness to each moment.
Certain drugs are being studied to treat cognitive problems.
Several drugs have been studied to treat cognitive problems in cancer patients and survivors, such as psychostimulants and erythropoietin -stimulating agents, but results are mixed. More research is needed.
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Purpose of This Summary
This PDQ cancer information summary has current information about expert-reviewed information summary about causes and management of cognitive impairment in people with cancer. It is meant to inform and help patients, families, and caregivers. It does not give formal guidelines or recommendations for making decisions about health care.
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Editorial Boards write the PDQ cancer information summaries and keep them up to date. These Boards are made up of experts in cancer treatment and other specialties related to cancer. The summaries are reviewed regularly and changes are made when there is new information. The date on each summary ("Updated") is the date of the most recent change.
The information in this patient summary was taken from the health professional version, which is reviewed regularly and updated as needed, by the PDQ Supportive and Palliative Care Editorial Board.
Clinical Trial Information
A clinical trial is a study to answer a scientific question, such as whether one treatment is better than another. Trials are based on past studies and what has been learned in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help cancer patients. During treatment clinical trials, information is collected about the effects of a new treatment and how well it works. If a clinical trial shows that a new treatment is better than one currently being used, the new treatment may become "standard." Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.
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PDQ® Supportive and Palliative Care Editorial Board. PDQ Cognitive Impairment in Adults with Non−Central Nervous System Cancers. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/memory/cognitive-impairment-pdq. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>.
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Last Revised: 2021-09-08
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