Objective: Many breast cancer survivors (BCS) report cognitive problems following chemotherapy, yet controversy remains concerning which cognitive domains are affected. This study investigated a domain crucial to daily function: the ability to maintain attention over time. Methods: We examined whether BCS who self-reported cognitive problems up to 3 years following cancer treatment (n = 19) performed differently from healthy controls (HC, n = 12) in a task that required sustained attention. Participants performed a target detection task while periodically being asked to report their attentional state. Electroencephalogram was recorded during this task and at rest. Results: BCS were less likely to maintain sustained attention during the task compared to HC. Further, the P3 event-related potential component elicited by visual targets during the task was smaller in BCS relative to HC. BCS also displayed greater neural activity at rest. Conclusions: BCS demonstrated an abnormal pattern of sustained attention and resource allocation compared to HC, suggesting that attentional deficits can be objectively observed in breast cancer survivors who self-report concentration problems. Significance: These data underscore the value of EEG combined with a less traditional measure of sustained attention, or attentional states, as objective laboratory tools that are sensitive to subjective complaints of chemotherapy-related attentional impairments.
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