First large study details cognitive outcomes among older breast cancer patients

WASHINGTON — The first large U.S. study of cognition in older breast cancer patients found that within the first two years after diagnosis and treatment, most women do not experience cancer-related cognitive problems.

Researchers also observed a troubling trend that needs further exploration–the small sub-set of women who experienced cognitive decline were unique in having the APOE4 gene, and this effect was most pronounced after chemotherapy. This gene has been found to substantially increase risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Results of this study, comparing hundreds of breast cancer patients ages 60 to 98 before and after treatment to a matched group of cancer-free older women “are good news for the majority of breast cancer patients who worry about potential long-lasting cognitive effects of treatment,”says the study’s lead researcher and geriatrician Jeanne Mandelblatt, MD, MPH, professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center

“Our study suggests that for most older breast cancer patients, chemotherapy and hormonal treatments do not have major adverse effects on cognitive function, at least as measured by our current tests,” she says.

Mandelblatt explains that cognitive function is a concern for older individuals who face multiple


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