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Fact or Fiction: Chemobrain

Chemotherapy has a long list of side effects that can occur due to the aggressive nature of the treatment. As chemotherapy attacks the cancer cells, it also attacks the cells of your body. Side effects can include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and hair loss. Additionally, people report that they have difficulty with memory and concentration. But is this real or just imagined?

Yes, Chemobrain is a real side effect of chemotherapy.

Researchers do not completely understand what causes chemobrain and hypothesize that it is caused by the extensive impact of the drugs. However, thinking skills, attention, memory, and concentration are all areas that can be impacted by chemobrain. The impact and extent of chemobrain varies for each individual person. It can be frustrating and frightening if you are unsure of what is happening.

How do I live with chemobrain?

For someone with chemobrain, there are ways to cope and limit the impact on your life. Consider the following tips:

  • Avoid distractions when trying to focus on one task. Limit the background noise of a TV or kids playing.
  • Practice complex tasks until they become easy.
  • If you feel your mind wander, ask yourself “What am I thinking about?” to refocus.
  • Write down what you need to do or are thinking on a post note, to-do list, or journal.
  • Have specific places in your house and office for each item.
  • Remember to sleep and get enough physical activity.
  • Exercise your mind with Sudoku or play with your kids.
  • It is vital to ask for help if you need it. Consider talking to your friends, family or doctor about living with chemobrain. If you have serious concerns, your doctor may recommend a neuropsychologist or specialist to talk to.

Want more information about coping with chemobrain? Click here for a link to the Touro Infirmary health library. Looking for help coping? Contact our team at the Supportive Cancer Care Center to get specialized and individualized help.