CogniFit's Science blog: What We Know About Chemo Brain

What We Know About Chemo Brain

Cancer survivors can go through an indescribably amount of pain, suffering and changes over the years. One of the many aspects that can be affected is the brain as some face thinking and memory problems following treatment. It is this fog, dysfunction and cognitive dysfunction that has become known by cancer survivors as chemo brain.

Although it is a widely used term, it can be misleading as it has not yet been properly associated with chemotherapy. There is still a large percentage of survivors that face memory problems that consistently score high on cognitive tests, which is precisely what leads doctors to believe chemo brain is nothing more than a false assumption.

Despite there being no true evidence that chemotherapy is the direct cause, people continue to make the connection. Because of this, there is a large list of signs, symptoms and causes you may want to be aware of.

As one might expect, chemo brain commonly comes with confusion, disorganization and difficulty fully concentrating on things throughout everyday life. In addition to this, some report having difficulty finding the right word, learning new skills, multitasking, and having a short attention span. Fatigue or even insomnia could be another problem that some face on a day to day basis.

The real confusion behind the term rests within the actual cause. While it is all speculation today, it could be related to chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery among many. And some of the directly related complications that can come from treatment include anemia, fatigue, infection, sleep problems and nutritional deficiencies.

The list of causes and reactions from the treatment is endless, but anxiety and depression can be big emotional reactions that come from this. It is important you keep an eye on your overall mood and how it swings following any kind of radiation or chemotherapy treatments.

To no surprise, there are risk factors that come with treatment as cancer is an extremely serious disease regardless of whether you still have it or are a survivor. The most notable risks to be aware of include brain cancer, chemotherapy that is give directly to the central nervous system, chemotherapy that is combined with whole-brain radiation, radiation therapy to the brain and higher doses of chemotherapy or radiation.

While the exact cause of chemo brain may still be unknown, the pain, symptoms and stress that survivors and patients go through is very real. And for this, it is ever so crucial you understand everything behind it regardless of whether you are a friend, family member or patient yourself.