Journal of Cancer Survivorship

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 653–662 | Cite as

Subjective cognitive functioning and associations with psychological distress in adult brain tumour survivors

  • Chelsea NicolEmail author
  • Tamara Ownsworth
  • Lee Cubis
  • William Nguyen
  • Matthew Foote
  • Mark B. Pinkham



The impact of brain tumour on subjective cognitive function (SCF) has received little attention despite the implications of these perceptions for quality of life. SCF consists of two related yet distinct components, perceived cognitive impairment (PCI) and perceived cognitive abilities (PCA). This study compared the SCF of adult brain tumour survivors and healthy controls and examined demographic, illness-related, and psychological factors associated with SCF.


Sixty-five adult survivors with primary brain tumour (age, 22–75 years), and 65 age- and sex-matched controls were recruited. Participants with brain tumour completed the Brief Test of Adult Cognition by Telephone, Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy–Cognitive Function (FACT-Cog), ratings of physical symptoms, Depression Scale of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales-21 (DASS-Depression), and Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) scale. Controls completed the FACT-Cog, DASS-Depression, and GAD-7.


Adult brain tumour survivors reported significantly greater PCI and lower PCA than controls, after accounting for anxiety. Higher PCI was significantly related to fatigue, pain, treatment-related side-effects, anxiety, and depression. Lower PCA was significantly associated with fatigue, pain, poorer objective cognitive function, lower education, anxiety, and depression. Anxiety uniquely accounted for 9–14% of variance in SCF.


Adult brain tumour survivors were found to experience poorer SCF than healthy controls after accounting for anxiety. SCF was related to multiple factors after brain tumour; however, an independent association with anxiety was identified.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

These findings highlight the potential value of psychological interventions targeting anxiety and cognitive effects to improve quality of survivorship after brain tumour.


Brain tumour survivors Patient-reported outcomes Perceived cognitive impairment Perceived cognitive abilities Psychological distress 



The authors would like to thank the Griffith University School of Applied Psychology for the publication scholarship, awarded to the first author. We would also like to thank all of the participants of the study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical clearance was obtained through hospital and university ethics committees. Adult brain tumour survivors were approached by treating professionals who provided an overview of the study and obtained initial verbal consent for researchers to contact prospective participants. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Applied Psychology, Menzies Health Institute QueenslandGriffith UniversityMount GravattAustralia
  2. 2.School of MedicineUniversity of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Radiation OncologyPrincess Alexandra HospitalWoolloongabbaAustralia

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