We all know what it means: a certain fuzziness, some difficulties with word-finding, maybe a lessened ability to multi-task or even concentrate for long periods of time. Chemobrain has been recognized by patients as long as there has been chemotherapy, but its acceptance by providers has been longer in coming.
Even though it is now widely acknowledged, there is uncertainty re the specific causes. Is chemobrain due to the drugs themselves, fatigue, high stress, poor sleep, distraction--or, probably, all of the above? The reassuring news is that it does get better and almost everyone feels cognitively back to normal in parallel with physical recovery from cancer treatment. In all honesty, I do know a few people who think they never regained their pre-cancer intellect, but, again, it is impossible to tease out the etiology. Especially for women who are thrown in menopause by surgery or treatment, the diminished of absence of estrogen is a factor.
This fact sheet is from JAMA and is likely to be of interest:
Cognitive Changes During Chemotherapy
Some cancer patients and survivors feel a mental cloudiness or “brain fog” that occurs during
and after chemotherapy, sometimes referred to as chemobrain.
What Are the Symptoms of Chemobrain?
Chemotherapy-induced cognitive dysfunction or impairment is the
state of mind described by cancer patients and survivors as a vague
and often distressing change in their thinking, alertness, and mental
function from their prior baseline level. This has been described
before, during, or after cancer therapy. For most patients it lasts for
weeks tomonths, but for others it can be of longer duration and last
Some specific examples of symptoms include the following, all
of which can be very distressing and may cause problems both at
work and at home:
• Taking a longer time to complete tasks
• Trouble recalling names or objects
• Trouble focusing
• Difficulty finding words
• Forgetting to finish small things, like turning off lights or locking