Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Psychological and Quantitative Foundations
Natalie L. Denburg
Saba R. Ali
Cancer affects millions of people every year and survivorship has increased substantially recently. Two cancers that affect older adults is non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and breast cancer, yet very little research has focused on cancer and survivorship in late life. Emerging research has suggested that chemotherapy could have deleterious consequences on cognition, but few studies have considered the long-term neurocognitive sequelae of chemotherapy. Furthermore, social support and optimism have been independently examined as predictors of quality of life in cancer patients, but little research has considered the effects of these variables on other outcomes, such as cognition. The aim of this study was to gain a better understanding of the relationship between social support and optimism on cognition, specifically in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHLS) and breast cancer survivors (BCS). It was hypothesized that social support and optimism would be positively related to cognition, and that social support would mediate the optimism-cognition relationship. Twenty-seven BCS (M age = 71.96), twenty-five female (M age = 69.76) and twenty-five male (M age = 65.28) NHLS groups were recruited. Each participant completed a three-hour standardized neuropsychological battery designed to evaluate a range of cognitive abilities involving attention, premorbid and current intellect, memory, language, visuospatial skills, and executive functioning, as well as self-report measures of mood, social support, and optimism. Performances on cognitive tests were within normal limits, but differences were found in aspects of executive functioning (p < .01) with the men outperforming women in the NHLS group. Women in the NHLS group performed better on a measure of executive functioning (p < .05) and visuospatial functioning (p < .01) than women in the BCS group. Women from both groups performed better than the male NHLS group on verbal learning and memory measures (all p's < .05). The groups did not differ on psychosocial variables. Correlations between psychosocial variables (i.e., social support and optimism) were variably related to cognitive measures in both groups. Social support did not mediate the optimism-cognition relationship. This is the first study to consider the relationship between social support, optimism, and cognition and early interventions to improve cognition in cancer survivors is discussed.
Cancer Survivors, Cognition, Neuropsychological Assessment, Quality of Life
Copyright 2011 Torricia Helena Yamada