Chemo Brain - The struggle is real!

Chemo brain is a term used to describe the mental cloudiness or fog that people with cancer may experience during treatment. This decrease in mental sharpness can affect day to day activities such as work, social activities, and tasks around the home.  

What causes chemo brain? 

While the exact cause of chemo brain is not known, and there are no tests that can identify it, there are risk factors, such as: 

  • Drugs used as part of the cancer treatment plan, which may cause tiredness, pain, or interrupt your sleep 

  • Other cancer treatments, including surgery or radiation to the brain 

  • Cancer itself, such as brain tumors 

  • Health conditions caused by cancer treatment, such as having low red blood cells (anemia) and depression 

What are the symptoms of chemo brain? 

  • Forgetting things 

  • Trouble remembering details 

  • Trouble concentrating 

  • Unable to multitask 

  • Losing objects 

  • Trouble learning new things 

  • Slower thinking 

  • Trouble finding the right words 

  • Feeling confused 

  • Having a short attention span 

 Are there any treatments for chemo brain?  

There are no approved treatments for chemo brain but there are different ways that may improve symptoms, such as: 

  • Regular exercise, if possible 

  • Meditation 

  • Memory aids such as notebooks and planners to write things down 

  • Treating sleep problems 

  • Stress management with relaxation techniques 

  • Referral to a specialist for other treatment options 

 Having support is important in helping you manage these changes. Let family and friends know what you are going through. Allow them to help in practical ways such as reminding you of appointments and plans with a phone call or text.  

When to contact your doctor: 

  • If the problems or brain fog interfere with your usual activities 

  • If the problems last longer than your cancer treatment 

 Questions to ask your doctor: 

  • Am I at risk for chemo brain? 

  • If I experience chemo brain, when might this happen? 

  • Is there anything I can do to prevent or decrease chemo brain symptoms? 

  • Are there treatments available for these symptoms?