Exploring the experience of a cognitive rehabilitation intervention for cancer-related cognitive change in people living with cancer: An interpretative phenomenological analysis

Andrea Joyce, Lindsey Burns, Kareena McAloney-Kocaman

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Some cancer patients experience cancer-related cognitive change (CRCC). Cognitive rehabilitation interventions (CRIs) have recently been developed to help mitigate the impact of CRCC, which, untreated, can impact resumption of daily life post-cancer treatment. The experience of participants is important to understand but largely absent within research literature. This study aimed to explore how those with CRCC experience the phenomenon following completion of a CRI.

This study comprised a qualitative phenomenological approach. This involved conducting in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 6 self-referred participants from one CRI. Participants were invited to discuss their experience of CRCC and what the CRI therefore meant to them. Interviews were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Analysis of the findings revealed 4 key themes. (1) “Experiencing and addressing isolation” comprises reflections on posttreatment perceived abandonment and consequent feelings of belonging through CRI participation. (2) “Identity” explores participants’ reflections around perceived loss-of-self and feelings of empowerment from the intervention. (3) “Cognitive and physical balance” comprises the planning and choices participants make, supported by both their own and CRI coping strategies as they seek acceptance of cognitive change. (4) “Course reflections” explore reflections on intervention structure, format, and delivery, focusing on 2 subthemes of accessibility, flexibility and inclusivity, and communication. All participants reflected positively on their experience.

Significance of results
Results support further dissemination among health professionals and implementation of this CRI to better support self-reported CRCC concerns within this population. Future qualitative research should explore the long-term impact of CRI interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalPalliative and Supportive Care
Early online date4 Aug 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Aug 2023


  • cancer-related cognitive impairment
  • chemo brain
  • cognitive rehabilitation interventions
  • interpretative phenomenological analysis
  • qualitative research

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