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Adjuvant chemotherapy, Breast cancer, Cognitive function, Culture



  1. Jung, Mi Sook PhD, RN
  2. Cimprich, Bernadine PhD, RN, FAAN


Background: Cognitive deficits have been reported as detrimental side effects in chemotherapy-treated breast cancer patients and survivors. Korean women treated for breast cancer may experience unrecognized cognitive deficits related to their treatment. However, no research has examined cognitive test performance in chemotherapy-treated Korean breast cancer survivors.


Objective: The objectives of this study were 2-fold: (1) to examine differences in occurrence and severity of cognitive deficits in Korean women treated with adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer as compared with a control group of women without breast cancer and (2) to examine the relationship of selected demographic and cultural factors with cognitive test performance.


Methods: Sixty-four Korean women, 32 women treated for localized breast cancer and 32 healthy controls, were enrolled. Breast cancer participants were assessed with established cognitive measures within 4 months after chemotherapy, and healthy controls, within 6 months after negative screening mammography.


Results: The breast cancer group showed a significantly higher occurrence and greater severity of cognitive deficits than controls did. Importantly, older age, less education, greater collectivist tendency, and greater childrearing burden were reliably associated with poorer attention and working memory test performance.


Conclusions: Cognitive deficits were found in chemotherapy-treated Korean women with moderate to large effect sizes compared with controls. Cultural characteristics contributed to worse cognitive performance.


Implications for Practice: Healthcare providers should recognize that Korean women may be highly vulnerable to cognitive deficits. Cultural factors also need to be considered when assessing cognitive function and designing therapeutic interventions to counteract negative cognitive outcomes.