Among survivors of childhood cancer, those with Central Nervous System (CNS) malignancies have been found to be at greatest risk for neuropsychological dysfunction in the first few years following diagnosis and treatment. This study follows survivors to adulthood to assess the long term impact of childhood CNS malignancy and its treatment on neurocognitive functioning.
Participants & Methods
As part of the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS), 802 survivors of childhood CNS malignancy, 5937 survivors of non-CNS malignancy and 382 siblings without cancer completed a 25 item Neurocognitive Questionnaire (CCSS-NCQ) at least 16 years post cancer diagnosis assessing task efficiency, emotional regulation, organizational skills and memory. Neurocognitive functioning in survivors of CNS malignancy was compared to that of non-CNS malignancy survivors and a sibling cohort. Within the group of CNS malignancy survivors, multiple linear regression was used to assess the contribution of demographic, illness and treatment variables to reported neurocognitive functioning and the relationship of reported neurocognitive functioning to educational, employment and income status.
Survivors of CNS malignancy reported significantly greater neurocognitive impairment on all factors assessed by the CCSS-NCQ than non-CNS cancer survivors or siblings (p<.01), with mean T scores of CNS malignancy survivors substantially more impaired that those of the sibling cohort (p<.001), with a large effect size for Task Efficiency (1.16) and a medium effect size for Memory (.68). Within the CNS malignancy group, medical complications, including hearing deficits, paralysis and cerebrovascular incidents resulted in a greater likelihood of reported deficits on all of the CCSS-NCQ factors, with generally small effect sizes (.22-.50). Total brain irradiation predicted greater impairment on Task Efficiency and Memory (Effect sizes: .65 and .63, respectively), as did partial brain irradiation, with smaller effect sizes (.49 and .43, respectively). Ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt placement was associated with small deficits on the same scales (Effect sizes: Task Efficiency .26, Memory .32). Female gender predicted a greater likelihood of impaired scores on 2 scales, with small effect sizes (Task Efficiency .38, Emotional Regulation .45), while diagnosis before age 2 years resulted in less likelihood of reported impairment on the Memory factor with a moderate effect size (.64). CNS malignancy survivors with more impaired CCSS-NCQ scores demonstrated significantly lower educational attainment (p<.01), less household income (p<.001) and less full time employment (p<.001).
Survivors of childhood CNS malignancy are at significant risk for impairment in neurocognitive functioning in adulthood, particularly if they have received cranial radiation, had a VP shunt placed, suffered a cerebrovascular incident or are left with hearing or motor impairments. Reported neurocognitive impairment adversely affected important adult outcomes, including education, employment, income and marital status.