"Is My Brain Ever Going to Work Fully Again": Challenges and Needs of Cancer Survivors with Persistent Cancer-Related Cognitive Impairment


Many cancer survivors experience cognitive impairments that impact memory, concentration, speed of information processing, and decision making. These impairments, collectively known as cancer-related cognitive impairments (CRCIs), are a key domain of unmet needs and can significantly impact a cancer survivor’s identity and quality of life. However, there are no purpose-built, multi-domain, needs assessment tools specifically for CRCI. The development of such tools requires an in-depth understanding of cancer survivors’ CRCI-specific challenges and associated needs. This study explored the challenges and associated needs of cancer survivors with persistent CRCI. An in-depth qualitative design using semi-structured interviews with (a) cancer survivors with perceived CRCI (n = 32) and (b) oncology health professionals (n = 19) was utilised. A reflexive thematic analysis of the interviews resulted in five overarching themes: (1) executing regular activities, (2) relational Cancers 2023, 15, 5331. https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers15225331 https://www.mdpi.com/journal/cancers Cancers 2023, 15, 5331 2 of 24 difficulties, (3) occupational functioning, (4) psychological distress, and (5) social functioning, as well as an additional informational needs domain. Ultimately, CRCI was found to directly produce a range of challenges that negatively, and persistently, impact cancer survivors’ quality of life. Cancer survivors were also found to have a range of needs associated with these challenges. This research should be used to inform future challenges and needs assessment tools as well as treatment and supportive care priority areas directly relating to CRCI.


cancer-related cognitive impairment, chemobrain, qualitative, health professionals, cancer survivors;

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