Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 136, Issue 1, pp 1–7 | Cite as

Chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment: does integrating complementary medicine have something to add? Review of the literature

  • Adva Avisar
  • Yaron River
  • Elad Schiff
  • Gil Bar-Sela
  • Mariana Steiner
  • Eran Ben-Arye


Chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment is a phenomenon of cognitive decline that some patients experience during and after chemotherapy. The prevalence of chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment in cancer survivors ranges from 14 to 85 %. Memory loss and lack of concentration are the most frequent symptoms, often resulting in deterioration of daily functioning and a decreased quality of life. Despite ongoing research on chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment, a clear understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the neurotoxicity induced by chemotherapy and the factors that determine a patient’s vulnerability are still lacking. We review current knowledge regarding the etiology of chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment, risk factors, conventional therapy, coping strategies, and potential complementary and integrative medicine treatments. Complementary and integrative medicine modalities that may improve chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment include mind–body techniques and acupuncture, as well as nutrition and herbal therapies. Studies on these modalities have not directly tested the hypothesis of modifying chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment and were done on different disorders of memory loss and lack of concentration. We recommend conducting further research on the potential role of complementary and integrative medicine modalities in the treatment and prevention of chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment.


Chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment Integrative medicine Complementary alternative medicine Supportive care Cancer 



The authors thank Prof. Aaron Polliack for his contribution to the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adva Avisar
    • 1
  • Yaron River
    • 2
  • Elad Schiff
    • 3
  • Gil Bar-Sela
    • 4
  • Mariana Steiner
    • 1
  • Eran Ben-Arye
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Integrative Oncology Program, Oncology Service, Lin Medical CenterClalit Health ServicesHaifaIsrael
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyHillel Yaffe Medical CenterHaderaIsrael
  3. 3.Department of Internal Medicine, B’nai Zion Hospital, Haifa, Israel; Department for Complementary/Integrative Medicine, Law and Ethics, International Center for Health, Law and EthicsUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael
  4. 4.Division of Oncology, Rambam Health Care Campus and Faculty of MedicineTechnion-Israel Institute of TechnologyHaifaIsrael
  5. 5.Complementary and Traditional Medicine Unit, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of MedicineTechnion-Israel Institute of TechnologyHaifaIsrael

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