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Examining the effects of adjuvant chemotherapy on cognition and the impact of any cognitive impairment on quality of life in colorectal cancer patients: study protocol

Dwek, M. R., Rixon, L., Simon, A. , Hurt, C. S. & Newman, S. P. (2015). Examining the effects of adjuvant chemotherapy on cognition and the impact of any cognitive impairment on quality of life in colorectal cancer patients: study protocol. BMC Psychology, 3(1), article number 43. doi: 10.1186/s40359-015-0100-5


Background: Research suggests that chemotherapy can cause deficits in both patients’ objectively measured and self-reported cognitive abilities which can in turn affect their quality of life (QoL). The majority of research studies have used post-treatment retrospective designs or have not included a control group in prospective cohorts. This has limited the conclusions that can be drawn from the results. There have also been a disproportionate number of studies focussed on women with breast cancer, which has limited the generalisability of the results to other cancer populations.

Aim: This study aims to identify the extent and impact of chemotherapy-induced cognitive decline in colorectal cancer patients. Possible associations with poorer QoL will also be explored.

Design: This will be a longitudinal controlled cohort study. Questionnaires measuring subjective cognitive functioning, QoL, fatigue and mood, and neuropsychological assessments of objective cognitive function will be collected pre-, mid- and post- chemotherapy treatment from a consecutive sample of 78 colorectal cancer patients from five London NHS Trusts. A further 78 colorectal cancer surgery only patients will be assessed at equivalent time points; this will allow the researchers to compare the results of patients undergoing surgery, but not chemotherapy against those receiving both treatments.
Pre- and post-chemotherapy difference scores will be calculated to detect subtle changes in cognitive function as measured by the objective neuropsychological assessments and the self-reported questionnaires. A standardised zscore will be computed for every patient on each neuropsychological test, and for each test at each time point. The post-chemotherapy score will then be subtracted from the pre-chemotherapy score to produce a relative difference score for each patient.
ANCOVA will be used to compare mean difference z-scores between the chemotherapy and surgery-only groups while controlling for the effects of gender, age, depression, anxiety, fatigue and education.

Discussion: The result from this study will indicate whether a decline in cognitive functioning can be attributed to chemotherapy or to disease, surgical or some other confounding factor. Identification of risk factors for cognitive deficits may be used to inform targeted interventions, in order to improve QoL and help patients’ cope.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Cognitive dysfunction, Chemotherapy, Colorectal cancer, Quality of life
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
SWORD Depositor:
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