Cancer and its treatments are known to contribute to cognitive difficulties that can interfere with various aspects of life. Despite the implications for all those with cancer, research has overwhelmingly focused on the impact of cognitive difficulties in cancer survivors. To raise awareness of this gap in research and treatment, on 19 June, the WeCare Chair organised the seminar “The impact of cognition in cancer and palliative care” by research psychologist Dr Denise Pergolizzi. The seminar shed light on the phenomenon of lapses in memory, decisions and concentration for those with cancer, often referred to as “chemobrain”, and the implications for those with cancer in palliative care.
As a resource for both researchers and clinicians, the seminar was organised in three parts. First, the scope of the impact of chemobrain on a patient’s life, before and after chemotherapy. Next, the link between cognitive difficulties and experiences of patients with cancer in palliative care – social burden, further cognitive insult by depression and opioid use for pain and the challenge to our self and meaning in life without clear memories to guide us. Lastly, resources and recommendations to help improve cognitive function in the context of improving quality of life, as is the goal of palliative care. Together, the seminar provided an understanding of how even subtle cognitive changes impact the holistic needs of cancer patients in palliative care.