Cancer-related Cognitive Impairment

Professor Janette Vardy1,2

1 Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney

2 Concord Cancer Centre, Concord Repatriation General Hospital

Cognitive impairment is reported by cancer survivors as one of the most important side-effects of treatment that impairs function and quality of life. Over 70% of cancer survivors report ongoing cognitive symptoms, approximately a third perform lower than expected on formal cognitive testing prior to receiving chemotherapy, and 20-30% have sustained cognitive impairment.  The majority of the studies have been performed in younger women with breast cancer.  The duration and aetiology of cognitive impairment in cancer survivors remains unknown but there are studies showing patients who received chemotherapy for breast cancer have higher rates of cognitive impairment 20-years after chemotherapy than those women who did not receive chemotherapy. There is minimal evidence for how to prevent or treat it.

The presentation will give an overview of cancer and cancer treatment induced cognitive impairment, including incidence, duration, putative mechanisms and potential treatments to assist with management.


Professor Janette Vardy is a medical oncologist working as a clinician researcher at the Concord Cancer Centre and the University of Sydney. Together with Dr Haryana Dhillon she established and co-leads the Survivorship Research Group (SuRG) at the University of Sydney.   Her main areas of research are Survivorship and Quality of life, with a particular interest in cognitive function and physical activity in cancer survivors.  In 2013 she established the Sydney Survivorship Centre at Concord Cancer Centre.