The experience of cognitive change in women with breast cancer following chemotherapy

Mary Louise Kanaskie, Susan J. Loeb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Purpose: Change in cognitive function is one side effect of chemotherapy reported in some breast cancer survivors sometimes years after treatment. These symptoms include subtle changes in memory, concentration, and executive functioning. The purpose of this study was to uncover the meaning of cognitive change in women with breast cancer, how symptoms are experienced and become evident, how symptoms impact roles in personal and professional lives, and how women cope with these changes. Methods: An interpretive phenomenological study was conducted with seven women with breast cancer, between the ages of 42–59, who had completed standard chemotherapy treatment within the past 12 months. Participants completed two in-depth semistructured interviews 1 month apart and maintained a written journal. Results: van Manen’s framework for interpretive phenomenology revealed five essential themes: noticing the difference, experiencing cognitive changes, interacting socially, coping, and looking forward. Analysis also includes a description of the phenomenon in relation to the lifeworld existentials of lived space, lived body, lived time, and lived human relation. Conclusions: The experience of cognitive change could not be isolated or studied separately from the context of the women’s reality of having breast cancer. Implications for Cancer Survivors: This study provides clarity related to the impact of cognitive change and how women cope with these changes in relation to their daily roles and responsibilities. Information is provided that elucidates the effect on employment issues that can influence financial and social well-being of women who are breast cancer survivors living with chemotherapy-related cognitive changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-387
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 17 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Oncology(nursing)


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