Chemo Brain -by Happy Chemo
Have you recently gone to chemotherapy? Are you in it now? You may be suffering other side effects that you may not have been made aware of. Our friends at Happy Chemo have some information that you might want to know. Visit their site for the full article and more information about chemo and cancer.
The Happy Chemo – Chemo Brain
Many side effects from cancer treatment are common knowledge: fatigue, nausea, hair loss and changes in appetite. But what about a decrease in mental function including thinking, memory, language skills and concentration?
For years, physician communities dismissed the complaints of cancer patients who said that their minds weren’t functioning like they used too but today they are listening as more and more people share their symptoms and discuss what has happened to their thinking process.
Some describe it as a ‘fog’, ‘not being able to think clearly’ or ‘having a fuzzy memory’ while others may experience a ‘loss of words’. No matter the description, cancer patients know that chemo brain is real.
What is Chemo Brain?
Chemo brain or post-chemotherapy cognitive impairment (PCCI) (also known as chemotherapy-induced cognitive dysfunction, chemo brain or chemo fog) describes the cognitive impairment that can result from chemotherapy treatment. Approximately 20-50% of people who undergo chemotherapy experience symptoms such as:
- – Difficulty concentrating and thinking clearly
- – Trouble multitasking (doing multiple things at once)
- – Problems remembering words during conversation
- – Longer processing time when learning new things
- – A shortened attention span
- – Feeling disorganized
What causes Chemo Brain?
Researches are still unsure what causes chemo brain and what may be done to prevent or treat it. Studies have indicated that symptoms of chemo brain have been reported by patients even before cancer treatment as well as by those who have never had chemotherapy. Factors such as distress, fatigue, anemia, depression, insomnia or hormonal fluctuations may also cause similar symptoms.
Although an exact cause has yet to be determined, it is important for cancer patients to understand that the symptoms are not ‘all in your head’. They are real and several things can be done to manage and cope with chemo brain.
Ways to Cope
The good news is that for most people the symptoms of chemo brain improve significantly over time. To avoid frustration, give yourself permission to take extra time thinking through problems and let those around you know that you may have difficulty with simple mental processes.
Suggestions for dealing with Chemo Brain
Write it down Keep a daily planner handy and write frequent to-do lists and reminders.
Talk about it Find a local support group and speak with others who can relate to what you’re experiencing.
Exercise body and mind Physical activity and mind building activities such as soduko or crosswords may help.
Relax and breathe Take deep breaths, try meditation or listening to soothing music.
Don’t over commit Delegate tasks to others and don’t try to do everything yourself. Ask for help.
Laugh at it Laughter lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones and triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and produces a general sense of well-being.
Talk with your Doctor Speak with your doctor about your symptoms as they may be related to other causes such as anemia or fatigue.
Question for you:
How has chemo brain affected your life? Did you find a solution that has helped you with chemo brain?
Post about it in the comments below and let us know.
Lynne Eldridge MD, About.com Guide 8/13/10 Chemo brain – Chemo brain as a Side Effect of Chemotherapy ‘Why Can’t I Think Clearly After Chemo?’
Theraputic benefits of Laughter: http://www.holisticonline.com/humor_therapy/humor_therapy_benefits.htm
Post Chemotherapy Congitive Impairment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemo_brain
HopeGuide.net Chemo Brain – Coping with cognitive changes during Treatment: