Cognitive impairment, either subjectively or objectively reported, is often associated with cancer and cancer therapies. Causes are attributed to side effects of therapy, fatigue, and mood disturbance. Although subjectively reported cognitive impairment is reported to be related to a patient’s quality of life, past studies have shown self-reported and objective cognitive measures are either weakly or not correlated. Little research is done on how objective cognitive performance correlate with quality of life. This study aimed to answer this question, and explore possible behavioral or psychosocial factors that may affect cognitive performance among cancer patients.
94 mixed-type cancer patients completed a computer-based assessment battery based on presentation of playing cards. Two measures of cognitive performance, response time and accuracy of short-term memory recall, were used. The patients also completed questionnaires on quality of life, mood, stress, sleep quality, social support, and physical activity.
Cognitive performance, in terms of both response time and recall accuracy, declined with age (r = .26 and -.40 respectively, both ps < .01) but did not differ on sex, cancer types, and types of therapies received. After controlling for age, response time was significantly correlated with self-reported quality of life, perceived stress, and depression and anxiety levels (r = -.23, .33, and .26 respectively, all ps < .01), while no relation was found for recall accuracy. Age-controlled regression analysis of response time showed perceived stress was the only significant association (beta = .323, p < .01).
This study is a preliminary attempt to investigate possible linkage between cognitive performance and psychosocial well-being of cancer patients. Despite its limitations as a cross-sectional study, the current findings offer evidence that psychosocial factors may influence cognitive performance in cancer patients, which in turn affects their quality of life.