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  • Writer's pictureWomen's Cancer Research Foundation

Chemo Brain Is Real

“Chemo brain” refers to thinking that is sluggish or fuzzy. Essentially, this condition can interfere with executive functioning, the actions of the brain that control higher-level cognition, mental abilities, and behavioral responses. One contributing factor to chemo brain is cancer-related treatment (chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and radiation therapy). According to the American Cancer Society, many chemotherapies can produce cognitive impairment, a decrease in mental sharpness or acuity.

Additionally, some patients experience issues with recalling certain items and having trouble finishing tasks, concentrating, or learning new skills. The cause of chemo brain is unknown, but it can happen to anyone during or following treatment. Consequently, patients can have great difficulty with performing normal activities, namely school, work, or activities of daily living. Unfortunately, most patients do not share this complication with their cancer care team (e.g., nurses) and thus, it is imperative that they seek out help or support, regardless of the problem’s severity.

The duration of chemo brain is variable for most patients and usually transient, but the difficulty may persist.

The duration of chemo brain is variable for most patients and usually transient, but the difficulty may persist. Treatment for chemo brain includes cognitive rehabilitation, exercise, and meditation. Cognitive rehabilitation refers to activities that enhance brain function, such as developing strategies to absorb new information and performing novel tasks, repeating activities that become progressively more challenging or employing tools (day planners or diaries) to assist with organization.

About Women’s Cancer Research Foundation The Women’s Cancer Research Foundation (WCRF) is one of Southern California’s and the nation’s most active research organizations for female cancers. We are dedicated to serving the interests of patients, families, and friends affected by women’s cancers. WCRF partners with physician-scientists nationally to make differences in women’s lives by offering hope, strength, and progress.

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