What is Chemo Brain?
The phrase "chemo brain" has come to be used by cancer survivors to describe changes
in memory, attention, concentration, and abilities to perform various mental tasks
that are associated with receiving chemotherapy treatments for cancer.
In medical jargon the effects of chemo brain are referred to as cognitive
deficits or declining neuropsychological functioning. In recent
years more focus has been placed on this phenomena as a side effect of chemotherapy.
Other factors contributing to the "chemo brain"
- Low blood counts
- Emotional upheaval of cancer.
An example of the increasing interest in "chemo brain" in the research community
is the published results of a study in the January 15, 2002 issue of The Journal
of Clinical Oncology. The study looked at the neuropsychologic impact of standard-dose
chemotherapy in long-term survivors of breast cancer and lymphoma. The findings
of this study showed that chemotherapy could be associated with cognitive deficits
or "chemo brain," in some patients. These "chemo brain" deficits were found
to be subtle, and that survival benefit of chemotherapy far outweighs the potential
risks to memory or concentration for most patients.
Now that "chemo brain" is being recognized and focused on, some of the directions
of study are attempting to determine which chemotherapies are more prone to contributing
to chemo brain. Researchers are also looking at developing ways of preventing
chemo brain from happening or strategies to help survivors who continue to experience
What can you do if you are experiencing "chemo brain"?
- Avoid distraction
- Ask people to repeat information
- Practice tasks
- Write down information
- Use a daily organizer
- Keep a journal
- Post reminders
- Get organized
- Exercise your memory
- Manage stress
- Get plenty of sleep
- Increase physical activity
- Use mnemonic devices (a formula or rhyme, used as an aid in remembering)
- Do crossword puzzles
- Ask for help
Note: If you experience symptoms of "chemo brain," we
strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional about your
specific medical condition and treatments. The information contained in this website
is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for medical advice.