Cognitive functioning in thyroid cancer survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Omar Saeed, Lori J. Bernstein, Rouhi Fazelzad, Mary Samuels, Lynn A. Burmeister, Lehana Thabane, Shereen Ezzat, David P. Goldstein, Jennifer Jones, Anna M. Sawka

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Some thyroid cancer (TC) survivors experience cognitive symptoms. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to perform a systematic literature review and meta-analysis comparing cognitive performance in TC survivors to controls. Methods: We performed a seven-database electronic search and hand-search. We performed duplicate independent reviews and data abstraction. Random effects meta-analyses reported standardized mean differences (SMDs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs), where a negative value implies worse performance in the TC group. Results: We reviewed 1174 unique citations and 10 full-text papers. We included seven studies of 241 treated TC survivors and 273 controls. Cognitive function was statistically significantly worse in TC survivors in the following domains: Attention and Concentration (Digit Span Forwards) SMD − 0.37 (95% CI − 0.62, − 0.13, p = 0.003, four studies), Speed of Processing (Trail Making A) SMD − 0.36 (95% CI − 0.66, − 0.05, p = 0.022, four studies), and Language (Controlled Oral Word Association [COWAT]-Categories) SMD − 0.97 (95% − 1.31, − 0.64, p < 0.001, two studies). Executive Function results varied: COWAT-Letters SMD − 0.60 (95% CI − 0.94, − 0.27, p < 0.001, two studies), Digit Span Backwards SMD − 0.40 (95% CI − 0.64, − 0.15, p = 0.002, four studies), and Trail Making B test SMD − 0.20 (95% CI − 0.51, 0.10, p = 0.191, four studies). Statistical heterogeneity limited the COWAT-Categories and Digit Span Backwards meta-analyses. Conclusions: Cognitive function was worse in TC survivors in multiple domains. Limitations included few studies, potential confounding, and lack of prospective data. Implications for Cancer Survivors: TC survivors may experience impairments in cognitive function and should report cognitive concerns to healthcare practitioners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-243
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 15 2019


  • Cancer survivorship
  • Meta-analysis
  • Neurocognitive function
  • Systematic review
  • Thyroid cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Oncology(nursing)


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