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PLoS One. 2014 Sep 26;9(9):e108002. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0108002. eCollection 2014.

Chemobrain experienced by breast cancer survivors: a meta-ethnography study investigating research and care implications.

Author information

1
Department of Postgraduate Studies, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
2
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Discipline of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
3
Discipline of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
4
Concord Cancer Centre, Concord Repatriation and General Hospital, Concord, Sydney, Australia; Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Cognitive impairment, colloquially termed "chemobrain", occurs in 10-40% of all cancer patients, and is an emerging target of cancer survivorship research.

AIM:

This study reviews published qualitative studies to explore cognitive impairments or chemobrain among breast cancer survivors, with particular attention given to the impact on quality of life.

METHOD:

Using keywords, we searched ten electronic databases (CINAHL, EMBASE, Proquest, OVID SP, MEDLINE, Oxford Journal, Science Direct, PubMED).

FINDINGS:

Of 457 papers, seven relevant papers were included. Data was extracted and concepts were analysed using a meta ethnography approach. Four second order intepretations were identified, on the basis of which, four third order intrepretations were constructed. Linked together in a line of argument, was a consistent account on their struggles to self-manage the chemobrain impairments that impact their daily lives. Five concepts emerged from the analysis of the primary findings: i) real experiences of cognitive changes, ii) calls for help, iii) impact of cognitive impairments, iv) coping and v) survivorship and meaning. Further synthesis resulted in four new order intepretations: i) The chemobrain struggle, ii) The substantial impact of chemobrain on life domains, iii) The struggle to readjust and to self manage, and iv) 'thankful yet fearful' representation.

DISCUSSION:

Awareness of cognitive changes were context-dependent on healthcare settings and cultural contexts as strong determinants. Subjects verified the existence of chemobrain but healthcare providers mis-recognised, under-recognised, and sometimes negated it perhaps due to its unknown aetiology. Asian breast cancer survivors appear less vocal than their western counterparts.

CONCLUSION:

The current literature on the lived experiences of how women experienced chemobrain provides a consistent report that chemobrain is real, persistent and with detrimental impacts on quality of life - manifested as a constant struggles. A greater awareness of the effects of chemobrain with improved functional assessment and interventions is warranted.

PMID:
25259847
PMCID:
PMC4178068
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0108002
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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