Training cognitive functions using mobile apps in breast cancer patients: systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Breast cancer is an invalidating disease and its treatment can bring serious side effects that have a physical and psychological impact. Specifically, cancer treatment generally has a strong impact on cognitive function. In recent years, new technologies and eHealth have had a growing influence on health care and innovative mobile apps can be useful tools to deliver cognitive exercise in the patient’s home. Objective: This systematic review gives an overview of the state-of-the-art mobile apps aimed at training cognitive functions to better understand whether these apps could be useful tools to counteract cognitive impairment in breast cancer patients. Methods: We searched in a systematic way all the full-text articles from the PubMed and Embase databases. Results: We found eleven studies using mobile apps to deliver cognitive training. They included a total of 819 participants. App and study characteristics are presented and discussed, including cognitive domains trained (attention, problem solving, memory, cognitive control, executive function, visuospatial function, and language). None of the apps were specifically developed for breast cancer patients. They were generally developed for a specific clinical population. Only 2 apps deal with more than 1 cognitive domain, and only 3 studies focus on the efficacy of the app training intervention. Conclusions: These results highlight the lack of empirical evidence on the efficacy of currently available apps to train cognitive function. Cognitive domains are not well defined across studies. It is noteworthy that no apps are specifically developed for cancer patients, and their applicability to breast cancer should not be taken for granted. Future studies should test the feasibility, usability, and effectiveness of available cognitive training apps in women with breast cancer. Due to the complexity and multidimensionality of cognitive difficulties in this cancer population, it may be useful to design, develop, and implement an ad hoc app targeting cognitive impairment in breast cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10855
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • Breast cancer
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Cognitive training
  • Intervention
  • Mobile-Based interventions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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