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J Natl Cancer Inst. 2019 Oct 1;111(10):1009-1015. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djz100.

Understanding the Profile of Cancer-Related Cognitive Impairments: A Critique of Meta-Analyses.


A large body of evidence indicates that cancer survivors who have undergone chemotherapy have cognitive impairments. Substantial disagreement exists regarding which cognitive domains are impaired in this population. We suggest that is in part due to inconsistency in how neuropsychological tests are assigned to cognitive domains. The purpose of this paper is to critically analyze the meta-analytic literature on cancer-related cognitive impairments (CRCI) to quantify this inconsistency. We identified all neuropsychological tests reported in seven meta-analyses of the CRCI literature. Although effect sizes were generally negative (indicating impairment), every domain was declared to be impaired in at least one meta-analysis and unimpaired in at least one other meta-analysis. We plotted summary effect sizes from all the meta-analyses and quantified disagreement by computing the observed and ideal distributions of the one-way χ2 statistic. The actual χ2 distributions were noticeably more peaked and shifted to the left than the ideal distributions, indicating substantial disagreement among the meta-analyses in how neuropsychological tests were categorized to domains. A better understanding of the profile of impairments in CRCI is essential for developing effective remediation methods. To accomplish this goal, the research field needs to promote better agreement on how to measure specific cognitive functions.

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