Adaptations to cognitive problems reported by breast cancer survivors seeking cognitive rehabilitation: A qualitative study

Heather J Green, Mary E Mihuta, Tamara Ownsworth, Haryana M Dhillon, Merilyn Tefay, Jasotha Sanmugarajah, Haitham W. Tuffaha, Shu Kay Ng, Ho Keung David Shum

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Qualitative studies have elucidated cancer survivors' experiences of cognitive changes associated with cancer and cancer treatment. This study specifically explored experiences of women treated for breast cancer who were seeking cognitive rehabilitation. The objective was to characterise the frequency and nature of cognitive changes and adaptations to cognitive change reported by these participants to better understand treatment needs of this group. Method: Australian women who had completed primary treatments for breast cancer (surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiotherapy) and volunteered to participate in one of two cognitive rehabilitation intervention studies were interviewed via telephone. Interview responses regarding cognitive changes and adaptations to cognitive change were transcribed by the interviewers, then coded and analysed by two researchers using content analysis. Results: Among the 95 participants (age M=54.3 years, SD=9.6), the most commonly reported cognitive change was memory (79% of participants) and 61% reported more than one type of cognitive change. Adaptations to change were reported by 87% of participants, with written or electronic cues the most common (51%). Most often, participants reported using a single type of adaptation (48%) with only 39% reporting multiple types of adaptations. Conclusions: Women treated for breast cancer, who were seeking cognitive rehabilitation, most commonly reported memory changes, which were mainly managed through a single type of adaptation. These results suggest that there is considerable scope for increasing the range of cognitive adaptations to improve the quality of life of cancer survivors who experience adverse cognitive changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2042-2048
Number of pages7
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • breast cancer
  • cancer
  • chemotherapy
  • cognitive impairment
  • cognitive rehabilitation
  • coping strategies
  • oncology
  • qualitative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Oncology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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