Biegler, K. A., Alejandro Chaoul, M., & Cohen, L. (2009). Cancer, cognitive impairment, and meditation. Acta Oncologica, 48(1), 18-26. Full text.
Background and objectives. Cancer-related cognitive impairment has been acknowledged as a substantial limiting factor in quality of life among cancer patients and survivors. In addition to deficits on behavioral measures, abnormalities in neurologic structure and function have been reported. In this paper, we review findings from the literature on cognitive impairment and cancer, potential interventions, meditation and cognitive function, and meditation and cancer. In addition, we offer our hypotheses on how meditation practice may help to alleviate objective and subjective cognitive function, as well as the advantages of incorporating a meditation program into the treatment of cancer patients and survivors for cancer-related cognitive deficits.
Findings. Various factors have been hypothesized to play a role in cancer-related cognitive impairment including chemotherapy, reduced hormone levels, proinflammatory immune response, fatigue, and distress. Pharmacotherapies such as methylphenidate or modafinil have been suggested to alleviate cognitive deficits. While initial reports suggest they are effective, some pharmacotherapies have side effects and may not relieve other symptoms associated with multimodal cancer treatment including sleep disturbance, nausea and pain. Several recent studies investigating the effects of meditation programs have reported behavioral and corresponding neurophysiological modulations that may be particularly effective in alleviating cancer-related cognitive impairment. Such programs also have been shown to reduce stress, fatigue, nausea and pain, and improve mood and sleep quality.
Conclusions. With the increasing success of cancer treatment and the ability to return to previous family, social, and work activities, symptom management and quality of life are an essential part of survivorship. We propose that meditation may help to improve cancer-related cognitive dysfunction, alleviate other cancer-related sequelae, and should be fully investigated as an adjuvant to cancer treatment.