Healthy Family | Home Safety | Health and Wealth | Relationship Issues | Career Advice | Growing Family
Get the SixWise e-Newsletter FREE!
Google Web
Free Newsletter Subscription
Get the Web's Most trusted & Informative Health, Wealth, Safety & More Newsletter -- FREE!


Share Email to a Friend Print This

Chemobrain: What to Know if You or a
Loved One is Considering Chemo


After being diagnosed with cancer, one of the most trying decisions is what treatment route to take. Some people choose solely holistic routes, focusing on nutrition, herbs and lifestyle, while others undergo surgery or take chemotherapy.

memory problems

One study found that the symptoms of chemobrain can last for 10 years or more.

An important issue to know about for those who have decided to go ahead with chemotherapy are the often serious side effects. Aside from the common nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fatigue, and increased risk of infections, chemotherapy also impacts your brain.

Many chemotherapy patients report feeling a mental "fog" of sorts, which until recently was disputed as being all in their head. Now, studies have shown that this mental fogginess, also known as "chemobrain," is indeed a real occurrence.

A study from UCLA, published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, found that chemo causes changes to the brain's metabolism and blood flow -- and the changes can persist for at least 10 years after the treatment.

"People with 'chemo brain' often can't focus, remember things or multitask the way they did before chemotherapy," said Dr. Daniel Silverman, head of neuronuclear imaging and associate professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Science Daily. "Our study demonstrates for the first time that patients suffering from these cognitive symptoms have specific alterations in brain metabolism."

Further, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), "Imaging tests have shown that after chemotherapy, some patients have smaller brain size in the parts of the brain that deal with memory, planning, putting thoughts into action, monitoring thought processes and behavior, and inhibition."

It's thought that at least 20 percent to 30 percent of people undergoing chemotherapy experience chemobrain, according to ACS. Some estimates, however, say chemobrain impacts up to half of chemo patients.

Challenging your brain

Challenging your brain with crossword puzzles and other mind games may help restore your memory.

Signs of Chemobrain

Researchers describe chemobrain as a mild cognitive impairment that involves "being unable to remember certain things and having trouble finishing certain tasks or learning new skills." Specifically, symptoms can include:

  • Forgetting things that you usually have no trouble recalling -- memory lapses

  • Trouble concentrating and focusing

  • Trouble remembering details like names, dates, and sometimes larger events

  • Trouble multi-tasking, or less ability to do more than one thing at a time

  • Taking longer to finish things -- slower thinking and processing

  • Trouble remembering common words and finishing sentences

  • Trouble learning new things (it may take you longer than it did before)

  • A feeling that you lost your mental "edge"

When Your Brain Needs to Relax: Quiet Your Mind With Guided Meditation

The Pure Relaxation CD is an essential tool for anyone looking for an excellent way to relax and quiet an overwhelmed mind.

The guided meditations in Pure Relaxation will calm your mind, soothe your emotions and create a state of deep relaxation in your body, giving you permission to live in a more relaxed way.

Pure Relaxation CD Learn More About the Pure Relaxation CD Now!

Is There Anything You Can Do?

People with cancer often feel entirely vulnerable to the side effects of chemo. But in the case of memory problems, there may be some natural and practical things you can do to help:

  1. Exercise. When you have the energy, aerobic exercise has been shown to boost your mood, make you feel more alert and help you concentrate.

  2. Challenge your mind. Doing crossword puzzles, reading, learning a new skill (such as a new language) and playing other brain games can help.

  3. Eat lots of vegetables. ACS notes that eating more vegetables can help you maintain your brainpower.

  4. Rest when you feel tired, and make sure you get plenty of sleep.

  5. Use a daily planner. Write down your appointments, your grocery list, birthdays and anniversaries, phone numbers, and anything else you need to remember.

  6. Don't try to multi-task. Do only one thing at a time, and try to minimize distractions.

  7. Keep track of your memory problems. Write down when you notice the problem and what the problem is. This might help you to notice a pattern or triggers.

  8. Start more routines. Put your keys in the same place every time you get home, and try to stick to a set schedule.

For now, chemobrain remains a mysterious side effect of chemo, and researchers are uncertain exactly what causes it. It is thought that higher doses of chemo are more likely to trigger memory problems, and as more aggressive and high-dose drug schedules become the favored treatment, this represents a serious concern.

Researchers are currently looking into various approaches to deal with chemobrain, including developing chemo drugs that target only cancer cells and spare healthy cells like brain and nerve cells.

But until more is known, you can help yourself by using the tips above, and also sharing your problems with your family and friends. Sometimes just talking about what you're experiencing will help you to relax, and at the very least will give your loved ones more knowledge about how they can assist you.

For more information on cancer treatment options of all kinds visit:

Recommended Reading

How NOT to Act Around Someone Who Has Cancer

The 13 Most Common Forms of Cancer and the Keys to Prevention


American Cancer Society October 8, 2006 Chemobrain

Cancer Treatment Centers of America February 2008

To get more information about this and other highly important topics, sign up for your free subscription to our weekly "Be Safe, Live Long & Prosper" e-newsletter.

With every issue of the free newsletter, you’ll get access to the insights, products, services, and more that can truly improve your well-being, peace of mind, and therefore your life!

Share Email to a Friend Print This