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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02584

Cognitive performance and psychological distress in breast cancer patients at disease onset

 Jochen Kaiser1*,  Jorg Dietrich2, Miena Amiri1,  Isa Rüschel1,  Hazal Akbaba1, Nonda Hantke1,  Klaus Fliessbach3, 4, Bianca Senf5, Christine Solbach6 and  Christoph Bledowski1
  • 1Institute of Medical Psychology, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
  • 2Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, United States
  • 3Department of Neurodegenerative Diseases and Gerontopsychiatry, University Hospital Bonn, Germany
  • 4German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), Germany
  • 5University Hospital Frankfurt, Germany
  • 6Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Faculty of Medicine, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Objective: Many cancer patients complain about cognitive dysfunction. While cognitive deficits have been attributed to the side effects of chemotherapy, there is evidence for impairment at disease onset, prior to cancer-directed therapy. Further debated issues concern the relationship between self-reported complaints and objective test performance and the role of psychological distress.
Method: We assessed performance on neuropsychological tests of attention and memory and obtained estimates of subjective distress and quality of life in 27 breast cancer patients and 20 healthy controls. Testing in patients took place shortly after the initial diagnosis, but prior to subsequent therapy.
Results: While patients showed elevated distress, cognitive performance differed on a few subtests only. Patients showed slower processing speed and poorer verbal memory than controls. Objective and self-reported cognitive function were unrelated, and psychological distress correlated more strongly with subjective complaints than with neuropsychological test performance.
Conclusions: This study provides further evidence of limited cognitive deficits in cancer patients prior to the onset of adjuvant therapy. Self-reported cognitive deficits seem more closely related to psychological distress than to objective test performance.

Keywords: breast cancer, cognitive functions, psychological distress, Attention, Memory

Received: 30 Aug 2019; Accepted: 31 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Kaiser, Dietrich, Amiri, Rüschel, Akbaba, Hantke, Fliessbach, Senf, Solbach and Bledowski. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Jochen Kaiser, Institute of Medical Psychology, Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, j.kaiser@med.uni-frankfurt.de