Background: Older patients with cancer are more vulnerable to the effects of cognitive impairment affecting their functional status, quality of life, compliance to treatment and ultimately survival. Cancer-related cognitive impairment may be due to the cancer itself or due to the treatment of cancer. There are no data regarding the prevalence of cognitive impairment in older persons with cancer and brain metastasis.
Methods: This retrospective analysis was conducted on a prospectively collected data set of patients who attended the geriatric oncology clinic at a tertiary care comprehensive cancer centre in India from June 2018 to July 2021. Patients aged 60 years and above with malignancy were included. Cognition was assessed with the mini-mental status examination (MMSE); the Hindi MMSE was used for illiterate patients. A score of <23 on the MMSE was considered abnormal. Correlation between the presence of cognitive impairment and brain metastasis was tested using the chi-square test.
Results: A total of 597 patients were included, of which 462 (77.4%) were male. The median age was 69 years (range: 60–100 years). All patients had solid tumours; 244 (40.9%) had lung, 189 (31.7%) had gastrointestinal and 75 (12.6%) had head and neck malignancies. Forty-one (6.9%) patients had brain metastases, of which 10 (24.4%) had solitary, 30 (73.2%) had multiple lesions and 1 (2.4%) had leptomeningeal metastases. Cognitive impairment was noted in 11 (26.8%) of the 41 patients with brain metastases and 91 (16.4%) of the 556 patients without brain metastases. There was no significant correlation between the presence of brain metastases and cognitive impairment, p = 0.086.
Conclusion: Older persons with cancer and brain metastases were not found to have a higher occurrence of cognitive impairment than those without brain metastases in this study. The next step is to understand whether older persons with brain metastases are at a higher risk for cognitive decline as a result of therapeutic interventions such as cranial radiotherapy and chemotherapy.