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Poster D72

The long-term impact of chemotherapy on episodic memory and mental health in breast cancer survivors

Poster Session D - Monday, April 15, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Meenakshie Bradley-Garcia1, Annick Tanguay2, Adelaide Jensen1, Melanie Sekeres1; 1School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, 2Hearing and Speech Sciences, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer diagnosis worldwide. Cancer treatments, particularly chemotherapy, have pervasive effects on cognitive functioning and emotional well-being that can adversely impact quality of life. Chemotherapy has neurotoxic effects on the hippocampus, a critical structure involved in declarative memory and mental health. This study aims to understand how chemotherapy impacts episodic memory in women aged 30 to 65 with breast cancer who are at least 6 months post-chemotherapy and healthy controls, and how affective symptoms may mediate cognitive impairment. Participants completed questionnaires to assess anxiety, depression, stress, fatigue, and sleep quality. In a subsequent session, participants encoded two short verbal stories using the Taler Stories Task, then completed an immediate and 20-minute delayed recall task and rated their level of cognitive effort exerted to complete this task. Preliminary findings suggest that breast cancer survivors (BCS) significantly recalled fewer episodically rich details during the immediate and delayed recall tasks relative to controls, with no significant effect of time. Although BCS reported increased symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and sleep disturbances compared to controls, they were not significantly correlated with their episodic memory or their cognitive effort. BCS also required significantly more cognitive effort than controls which was significantly correlated with a reduction in accuracy during immediate and delayed recall. This same relationship was not observed in controls. Understanding the long-term effects of chemotherapy on episodic memory, mental health, and their relation, in BCS is crucial to determining therapeutic approaches to improve their quality of life.

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic


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April 13–16  |  2024