Chemo brain is a problem with thinking and memory that can happen during and especially after chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Thinking and memory problems are called cognitive problems. These problems may be mild or so serious that people have a hard time working or doing their daily activities.
Chemo brain may go away when treatment ends. But for some people it can last for months or years after treatment.
It's important to know that chemo brain is a real problem. You're not imagining it. Research is ongoing to learn more about how chemo brain occurs and how to prevent and treat it.
Chemo brain may be caused by chemotherapy medicines used to treat cancer. It could occur because of the cancer itself or 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.
Symptoms of chemo brain vary depending on the person. But you may:
If the problem is mild, you may be the only one who notices any change in your behavior.
Your doctor will listen to your symptoms and examine you. He or she may ask questions about when you notice problems with thinking and memory.
Your doctor will look for other causes of your problems. For example, medicines to treat pain or medicines that block estrogen (used to treat women with certain cancers) can cause foggy thinking. Dehydration, stress, depression, and trouble sleeping also can affect thinking and memory.
If your symptoms are very bad, your doctor may want you to have tests to see if something else may be causing your problems.
If you're still having chemotherapy, your doctor may try a different type of chemo to see if that stops your cognitive problems or causes fewer problems. Studies are being done to see which cancer medicines might be less likely to cause these problems.
If you still have chemo brain a year after cancer treatment ends, your doctor may suggest that you see a neuropsychologist. These experts help people who have cognitive problems.
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.
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