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October 2016

Subjective or Objective Measures of Cognitive Functioning—What’s More Important?

Author Affiliations
  • 1School of Psychology, Université Laval, Québec City, Québec, Canada
  • 2Université Laval Cancer Research Centre, Québec City, Québec, Canada
  • 3Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, Los Angeles
  • 4Department of Health Policy and Management, Fielding School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles
JAMA Oncol. 2016;2(10):1263-1264. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.2047

The literature on cognitive impairments associated with cancer treatment has accumulated in the past 15 years.1 Various reports have provided convincing evidence that chemotherapy (chemobrain) as well as other cancer treatments (eg, endocrine treatments for breast cancer) lead to significant cognitive impairments. Generally, researchers in this field emphasize the need to use objective measures of cognitive functioning to capture the “real” deficits. To that end, extensive batteries of neuropsychological tests have been used to identify which specific cognitive domains are affected by cancer treatment.2 To our knowledge, this idea has not been questioned. Herein, we argue that there are many contexts in which subjective measures would be more useful than neuropsychological tests. To support our argument, we provide a parallel example from sleep research.

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