What is chemo brain?

Chemo Brain

What are the symptoms of chemo brain?

Symptoms of chemo brain vary depending on the person. But you may:

  • Forget events, names, or other things.
  • Have trouble thinking of certain words when you talk.
  • Have trouble learning new things.
  • Take longer to do routine tasks.
  • Have trouble concentrating or feel like your mind is in a fog.

If the problem is mild, you may be the only one who notices any change in your behavior.

How is chemo brain treated?

Chemo brain may go away when treatment ends. If your symptoms are mild, they may go away without treatment. If your symptoms are very bad, your doctor may suggest that you see a specialist who is an expert in thinking and memory problems.

How is chemo brain diagnosed?

Your doctor will listen to your symptoms and examine you. He or she may ask questions about when you notice problems with thinking. Your doctor will look for other causes of your problems. For example, certain medicines can cause foggy thinking. Dehydration, stress, depression, and trouble sleeping also can affect thinking and memory.

How can you care for yourself when you have chemo brain?

Be patient with yourself. Try to eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, and get some physical activity each day. Try to reduce stress, maybe with meditation or yoga. Use sticky notes and phone alarms to remember events. Make to-do lists on your phone or in a notebook. Maybe family and friends can help.

Coping with chemo brain

It can be frightening to have chemo brain, especially during what is already a stressful time. Here are some ideas that may help you cope with this problem.

  • Take care of yourself.
    • Try to relax to reduce your stress. Meditate, or do yoga or another relaxing activity.
    • Try to be patient with yourself. The problem may go away with time.
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Eat a healthy diet.
    • Be as physically active as you can. But check with your doctor to make sure that you don't do too much too soon.
    • Keep your brain active by reading and doing puzzles, games, or crosswords.
  • Use memory aids.
    • Use sticky notes and calendars to help you remember events and tasks. Some people carry a notebook everywhere to write down important dates, to-do lists, and names of people.
    • Try to have a routine for daily tasks so you get used to doing the same things in the same order every day.
    • Bring a family member or friend to doctor visits. Or use your phone or another device to record your talk with your doctor. This will help you know what was said if you forget some of the conversation.
    • Keep a diary or journal. Write down when your mind feels the most clear and when you have trouble. Note how much sleep you had, if you were stressed, or other things that happened. These notes may help your doctor suggest more things to help you.
  • Get support.
    • Tell your family and close friends about the problem so they know what's going on if you forget words or seem foggy. Tell them what, if anything, they can do to help you.
    • See an oncology social worker if you are having trouble coping with memory problems.
    • Think about joining a support group for people in cancer treatment. They may have the same problems. You can share coping ideas.

What causes chemo brain?

These thinking and memory problems may be caused by chemotherapy medicines used to treat cancer. They could occur because of the cancer itself and maybe because of other medicines used to treat cancer. The anxiety and stress of having cancer also may make it harder to think and remember.

What is chemo brain?

Chemo brain is a problem with thinking and memory that can happen during and especially after chemotherapy treatment for cancer. It can make it hard for you to think, concentrate, and do tasks. You may have trouble remembering things. And you may feel like your brain isn't working right.

It can be frightening to have this happen, especially during an already stressful time. These problems can be mild. But they can be so serious that people have a hard time working or doing their daily activities.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.