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Episode 50 | Non-CNS Cancer and Cognition – With Dr. Mike Parsons


The cognitive consequences of non-central nervous system (non-CNS) cancer and cancer-related treatments did not become the subject of scientific investigation until recently and is still a growing area of research. Contemporary studies have made it clear that neuropsychology is an integral part of the evaluation and care of individuals with cancer. Today we talk with Michael Parsons, Ph.D., ABPP-CN, about the evaluation of cognitive change due to cancer and cancer-related treatment, factors that influence cognitive decline in these patients, and how interdisciplinary work can benefit these patients.

apa-logo_white_screenThe International Neuropsychological Society is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The International Neuropsychological Society maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

Mike Parsons
Instructor Credentials

Dr. Michael W. Parsons is a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist at the Pappas Neuro-Oncology Center and Department of Psychiatry at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. He specializes in cancer and cognition and his clinical work primarily involves the neuropsychological evaluation of patients with cognitive issues caused by cancer and its treatment.

Topics Covered
  • Review the history of scientific consideration of cognition and cancer
  • Discuss the term “chemo brain” and its history as well as implications
  • Breast cancer as a model for understanding non-CNS cancer and cognition
  • List sociodemographic factors that affect the prevalence of cognitive impairment in cancer survivors
  • List the cognitive domains that are susceptible to decline due to cancer and cancer-related treatment
  • Compare mechanisms for cognitive decline across non-CNS cancer and cancer-related treatments
  • Describe neuroimaging findings related to cognition and non-CNS cancer
  • Discuss other non-CNS cancers and cancer-related treatment related to cognitive decline
  • Discuss details regarding typical neuropsychological evaluations for adult patients with non-CNS cancer
  • Assess the claim that cancer treatments lead to accelerated aging and the mechanisms that may perpetuate age-related change
  • Characterize cognitive decline in older adults with cancer and cancer-related treatment
  • Discuss medical decision-making for older adults with cancer, including opioid use for cancer-related pain and its impact on cognition
  • Review the International Cognitive and Cancer Task Force (ICCTF)
  • Explain the importance of translational and interdisciplinary research and clinical care for the care of patients with non-CNS cancer
Educational Objectives
  • Explain how to use cancer and cognition terminology in both clinical and scientific contexts.
  • Discuss the literature on the incidence and course of cognitive impairment in cancer.
  • Describe the literature on cognitive profiles in people with cancer.
  • List several possible mechanisms for neurotoxic effects of non-CNS cancer.
  • Discuss clinical neuropsychological evaluations in patients with non-CNS cancer.
Target Audience
  • Introductory
  • Date Available: 2021-04-26
  • You may obtain CE for this podcast at any time.
Offered for CE
  • Yes
  • Members $20
  • Non-Members $25
Refund Policy
  • This podcast is not eligible for refunds
CE Credits
  • 1.0 Credit(s)
  • Dr. Parsons has received consulting fees from Agios Inc, a pharmaceutical company working on drugs for glioma, and from Monteris Inc, the developer of a medical device for treatment of brain tumors. The materials discussed in the podcast are not directly related to these companies.
  • N/A
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  • Andreotti, C., Root, J. C., Ahles, T. A., McEwen, B. S., & Compas, B. E. (2015). Cancer, coping, and cognition: a model for the role of stress reactivity in cancer‐related cognitive decline. Psycho‐Oncology, 24(6), 617-623.
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  • Karuturi, M., Wong, M. L., Hsu, T., Kimmick, G. G., Lichtman, S. M., Holmes, H. M., Inouye, S.K., Dale, W., Loh, K.P., Whitehead, M.I., Magnueon, A., Hurria, A., Janelsins, M.C., & Magnuson, A. (2016). Understanding cognition in older patients with cancer. Journal of geriatric oncology, 7(4), 258-269.
  • Kesler, S. R., & Blayney, D. W. (2016). Neurotoxic effects of anthracycline-vs nonanthracycline-based chemotherapy on cognition in breast cancer survivors. JAMA oncology, 2(2), 185-192.
  • Mandilaras, V., Wan-Chow-Wah, D., Monette, J., Gaba, F., Monette, M., & Alfonso, L. N. (2013). The impact of cancer therapy on cognition in the elderly. Frontiers in pharmacology, 4, 48.
  • Wefel J. S., Parsons M. W., Gondi V., & Brown P. (2018) Neurocognitive Aspects Including Radiation Complications. In: Handbook of Clinical Neurology - 3rd Edition: Metastatic Diseases of the Nervous System. Schiff & van den Bent (Eds). Elsevier.
  • Wefel, J. S., Vardy, J., Ahles, T., & Schagen, S. B. (2011). International Cognition and Cancer Task Force recommendations to harmonise studies of cognitive function in patients with cancer. The lancet oncology, 12(7), 703-708.