Document Type


Publication Date



Handout at bottom of page.


Breast cancer is currently the most common type of cancer in women (American Cancer Society, 2012). In 2012, 2,971,610 women in the United States were breast cancer survivors (American Cancer Society, 2012). Chemotherapy is often used to effectively treat breast cancer but can cause chemobrain, or chemotherapy-related cognitive impairments (CRCI), including decreased attention, concentration, memory, and difficulty learning new skills and completing routine tasks (American Cancer Society, 2013). CRCI can persist for years and may impact an individual’s occupational performance in daily activities and occupations. Occupational therapy practitioners currently work with this population in other areas including cancer-related fatigue management, lymphedema, physical limitations post-surgery, and psychosocial distress. However, the increasing number of breast cancer survivors and prevalence of CRCI highlight the importance for expanding and defining occupational therapy’s role with this population.

The purpose of this presentation is to present the results of a systematic review on interventions within occupational therapy’s scope of practice that can be used to improve CRCI in adults with breast cancer, and to discuss the implications for clinical practice. A comprehensive literature review was performed to understand the role of occupational therapy in treating individuals with chemobrain. CINAHL, Medline and Cochrane databases were used to conduct the review following inclusion criteria (literature published after 2003, and adults with breast cancer who have received chemotherapy) and exclusion criteria. To minimize bias, all articles were critiqued by a primary and secondary reviewer.

Thirteen articles were reviewed. The literature review determined health professionals tend to not acknowledge the presence of CRCI, and there is a need for health care professionals to address the symptoms of CRCI. Current interventions that fit within the scope of occupational therapy are being implemented primarily by other disciplines, such as memory strategies and training, and running support groups. The lack of high quality evidence supporting the role of occupational therapy highlights the need for further research and the development of evidence-based interventions that include using compensatory, remedial, psychosocial, and patient education interventions.


American Cancer Society. (2012). Cancer treatment and survivorship facts & figures

2012-2013. Retrieved from

American Cancer Society. (2013). Chemo brain. Retrieved from