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Post-treatment cognitive dysfunction in women treated with thyroidectomy for papillary thyroid carcinoma

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The purpose of the study is to assess cognitive function in papillary thyroid cancer, one type of differentiated thyroid cancer, and to identify factors associated with cognitive dysfunction.


Korean women treated with papillary thyroid cancer post thyroidectomy (n = 90) and healthy women similar in age and educational level (n = 90) performed attention and working memory tests and completed self-report questionnaires on cognitive complaints, psychological distress, symptom distress, and cultural characteristics. Comparative and multivariable regression analyses were performed to determine differences in cognitive function and possible predictors of neurocognitive performance and cognitive complaints.


Thyroid cancer survivors performed and perceived their function to be significantly worse on tests of attention and working memory compared to individuals without thyroid cancer. Regression analyses found that having thyroid cancer, older age, and lower educational level were associated with worse neurocognitive performance, while greater fatigue, more sleep problems, and higher levels of childrearing burden but not having thyroid cancer were associated with lower perceived effectiveness in cognitive functioning.


Findings suggest that women receiving thyroid hormone replacement therapy after thyroidectomy for papillary thyroid cancer are at risk for attention and working memory problems. Coexisting symptoms and culture-related women’s burden affected perceived cognitive dysfunction. Health care providers should assess for cognitive problems in women with thyroid cancer and intervene to reduce distress and improve quality of life.

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The research was funded by the 2014 Research Fund of the Chungnam National University (2014-0661-01). We are most appreciative of the study participants and research teams who made this research possible.

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Correspondence to Moira Visovatti.

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Research involving human participants and/or animals

1. Statement of human rights. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

2. Statement of welfare of animals. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

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Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.

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Jung, M.S., Visovatti, M. Post-treatment cognitive dysfunction in women treated with thyroidectomy for papillary thyroid carcinoma. Support Care Cancer 25, 915–923 (2017).

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