A systematic review of the prevalence of comorbid cancer and dementia and its implications for cancer-related care

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Objectives: A co-morbid diagnosis of cancer and dementia (cancer-dementia) may have unique
implications for patient cancer-related experience. The objectives were to estimate prevalence of
cancer-dementia and related experiences of people with dementia, their carers and cancer clinicians
including cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment and palliative care. Method: Databases were
searched (CINAHL, Psychinfo, Medline, Embase, BNI) using key terms such as dementia, cancer and
experience. Inclusion criteria were: a) English language, b) published any time until early 2016, c)
diagnosis of cancer-dementia and d) original articles that assessed prevalence and/or cancer-related
experiences including screening, cancer treatment and survival. Due to variations in study design and
outcomes, study data were synthesized narratively. Results: Forty-seven studies were included in the
review with a mix of quantitative (n = 44) and qualitative (n = 3) methodologies. Thirty-four studies
reported varied cancer-dementia prevalence rates (range 0.2-45.6%); the others reported reduced
likelihood of receiving: cancer screening, cancer staging information, cancer treatment with curative
intent and pain management, compared to those with cancer only. The findings indicate poorer
cancer-related clinical outcomes including late diagnosis and higher mortality rates in those with
cancer-dementia despite greater health service use. Conclusions: There is a dearth of good quality
evidence investigating the cancer-dementia prevalence and its implications for successful cancer
treatment. Findings suggest that dementia is associated with poorer cancer outcomes although the
reasons for this are not yet clear. Further research is needed to better understand the impact of cancerdementia
and enable patients, carers and clinicians to make informed cancer-related decisions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-55
Number of pages55
JournalAging and Mental Health
Early online date18 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Dementia and Cognitive Disorders, Physical Health Status, Health Service Use, Cancer, Systematic Review


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