Cognitive impairment and sleep quality in newly diagnosed women with breast cancer

Awardee: Nicole Rodriguez

Graduate Program: PhD

Institution: Memorial University

Supervisor(s): Sheila Garland

ARCC Program Area(s): Health Systems, Services, and Policy; Societal Values and Public Engagement

Competition: 2018

Project Summary:

Breast cancer is the most common cancer type among Canadian women. It is good that more women are surviving their diagnosis than ever before. This is because of better treatments, but these treatments can also have harmful side effects that can make it harder for women with breast cancer to live like they did before cancer. With more women surviving their diagnosis, more women are also having these negative side effects. One such side effect includes difficulties with paying attention, remembering things, and concentrating, often called “chemofog” or “chemobrain”. Women say that they forget names and dates, find it hard to focus on tasks at work, and have trouble talking with more than one person at a time. Up to 75 percent of women experience these problems during chemotherapy and 35% will continue to experience them once treatment has ended. Unfortunately, we still do not truly understand what is involved in how these problems develop. We know that poor sleep affects attention, memory, and concentration in cancer-free populations. So, is it possible that poor sleep could be affecting these problems in women with breast cancer? The goal of the current research project is to look at whether sleep might play a role in how cognitive problems develop in 100 women with breast cancer. The participants will come from the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Center in St. John’s, Newfoundland. They will complete a variety of tests before the start of their treatment, four months after, eight months after, and one year after. This study is the first to explore how sleep and cognitive impairments are connected in women with breast cancer. We hope to better understand what is involved in the development of poor attention, memory, and concentration in order to create helpful treatments for women with this side effect in the future. If sleep is indeed involved in the development of cognitive problems, it is possible that early treatment of sleep difficulties could improve the lives of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer.

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