Approximately 60% of the more than 3.8 million breast cancer survivors (BCSs) living in the United States are 60 years or older. Breast cancer survivors experience many symptoms including cognitive dysfunction; however, little is known regarding how age affects these symptoms.
This integrative review was conducted to synthesize the literature on cognitive dysfunction in older BCSs. The purpose was to (1) describe the prevalence of objective and subjective cognitive dysfunctions and (2) examine factors associated with cognitive dysfunction in older BCSs.
Whittemore and Knafl’s integrative review methodology was used to examine cognitive dysfunction in BCSs 60 years or older.
Twelve quantitative studies were included. Up to 41% of older BCSs experienced cognitive dysfunction on neuropsychological examination, and up to 64% reported cognitive dysfunction on subjective measures pretreatment. Approximately half of older BCSs experienced cognitive decline from pretreatment to posttreatment regardless of cognitive measure. The domains most impacted were memory, executive functioning, and processing speed. Objective and subjective cognitive dysfunctions were associated with age, comorbidities, chemotherapy receipt, sleep, neuropsychological symptom cluster, frailty, and quality of life.
Cognitive dysfunction among older BCSs was common both prior to and following treatment. Cognitive dysfunction was associated with multiple factors that are compounded in the aging population and could be detrimental to quality of life and independent living.
Implications to Practice
Early assessment and intervention by healthcare providers, including nurses, for cognitive dysfunction in older BCSs are essential. Future research should focus on evidence-based interventions for cognitive dysfunction incorporating the unique needs of older BCSs.