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Living well with cancer: Memory changes & ‘Chemo Brain’

By January 26, 2023No Comments

This is sometimes called “chemo brain” or “chemo fog”, memory changes are common with cancer and cancer treatments.  Doctors may call chemo brain many things, such as cancer treatment-related cognitive impairment, cancer-related cognitive change, or post-chemotherapy cognitive impairment. The word “cognitive” refers to the way your brain works to help you communicate, think, learn, solve problems and remember. People who experience ‘chemo brain’ may notice that they can’t remember or think as clearly as they used to. Some people may notice changes to their memory and the way they think will continue after treatment has finished. These memory changes are often temporary and improve over time.  The changes you may notice include;

  • Forgetting things like names, appointments and important dates
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Being disorganised and taking longer to finish things
  • Trouble finding words
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty getting thoughts together
  • Problems making sense of information.

What causes it?

It’s not known exactly what causes chemo brain, but some possible causes are:

  • having cancer
  • having any type of cancer treatment
  • taking medicines as part of cancer treatment e.g. steroids, anti-nausea medicines, pain killers
  • side effects of treatment such as fatigue, poor nutrition, low blood counts or infection
  • feelings of stress, anxiety or depression.

Are there any medicines that can help?

Currently no medicines are available that treat memory changes, there are a few simple steps that can assist you if you are noticing some memory changes.

Ways to help manage memory changes

  • Keep a notepad, diary or phone handy to keep track of: − appointments − important dates and conversations − when to take medications − symptoms

  • Ask your pharmacist to organise your medicines in a multi-dose blister pack or similar packaging system
  • Set an alarm to remind you to take your medicines
  • Keep things like keys and phone in a usual place
  • Use post-it notes to help remember things and put them where you will notice them
  • Make lists of what you need to do each day, and do the more important things first

 Some other things to try

  • Exercise: Exercise can improve your thinking and ability to focus. Visiting and exercise physiologist can assist in supporting your particular needs and circumstances.
  • Meditation: Meditation can help improve brain function by increasing your focus and awareness.
  • General wellbeing activities: Activities such as gardening, caring for pets, or walking, massage or even groups such as art therapy can help improve your attention and concentration levels, promoting recovery, lessen stress and anxiety and assist in relaxation.



Contact us at the center on 07 5445  5794 if you have any questions.

All information provided by Bloomhill is based on research and best practice guidelines. Our model of care utilizes the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) domains of wellness along with available clinical evidence.  Always consult your care team regarding matters that affect your health. This is a guide intended for information only.