Prospective Evaluation of Pretreatment Executive Cognitive Impairment and Depression in Patients Referred for Radiotherapy

Clifton D. Fuller, Jason E. Schillerstrom, William E. Jones, Melissa Boersma, Donald R. Royall, Martin Fuss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Purpose: Cancer patients are at risk of cognitive impairment and depression. We sought to ascertain the prevalence of executive, visuospatial, memory, and general cognitive performance deficits before radiotherapy in a radiation oncology clinic referral population and correlate the neurocognitive measures with the depression symptom burden. Methods and Materials: A total of 122 sequential patients referred for radiotherapy evaluation were administered a test battery composed of the Executive Interview (EXIT25), Executive Clock Drawing Task (CLOX1 and CLOX2), Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), Memory Impairment Screen (MIS), and Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS). The mean age ± standard deviation was 58 ± 17 years. Of 122 patients, 24 (20%) had been referred for breast cancer, 21 (17%) for gastrointestinal cancer, 17 (14%) for genitourinary disease, and 8 (7%) for brain lesions; the rest were a variety of tumor sites. The cognitive performance among the tumor cohorts was compared using Bonferroni-corrected analysis of variance and Tukey-Kramer tests. Pearson correlation coefficients were determined between each cognitive instrument and the GDS. Results: Of the 122 patients, 52 (43%) exhibited a detectable executive cognition decrement on one or more test measures. Five percent had poor memory performance (MIS), 18% had poor visuospatial performance (CLOX2), and 13% had poor global cognition (MMSE). Patients with brain tumors performed substantially worse on the EXIT25. No between-group differences were found for CLOX1, CLOX2, MIS, or GDS performance. The EXIT25 scores correlated significantly with the GDS scores (r = 0.26, p = 0.005). Conclusions: The results of this study have shown that patients referred for radiotherapy exhibit cognitive impairment profiles comparable to those observed in acutely ill medical inpatients. Executive control impairment appears more prevalent than global cognitive deficits, visuospatial impairment, or depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-533
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2008


  • Cognitive impairment
  • Depression
  • Executive control function
  • Pretherapy
  • Radiotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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