Short-term memory problems. Confusion. Inability to focus. Could it be dementia?
Possibly; but if you’re a cancer survivor, there’s another likely culprit that could be at play: chemotherapy. Known as “chemo brain” or by its technical term, chemotherapy induced cognitive impairment (CICI), effects such as these can continue for months and even years after treatment.
Chemo brain symptoms can happen in any individual receiving chemotherapy as well as surgery, radiation, or hormonal treatments, even without chemo. Furthermore, the cancer itself can cause cognitive issues as well, adding to the difficulty of effectively relieving the condition.
Dr. Kevin Liou of the Bendhaim Integrative Medicine Center of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center explains, “Cancer-related cognitive impairment is now understood to be a complex, multi-factorial problem with various contributory factors.”
As a result, chemo brain may appear any time during or following cancer treatment, presenting with symptoms such as problems with:
- Reading comprehension
- Finding the right word (for example, recalling the name of a person or familiar object)
- Completing sentences
- Processing information
- Attention span
A general feeling of fuzziness has also been reported. Taking the following steps can help maximize cognitive performance if chemo brain is affecting you or a loved one:
- Prioritize getting 6 – 8 hours of sleep every night.
- Exercise every day for at least 20 – 30 minutes. This can be as simple as using the stairs instead of the elevator, choosing a parking space a greater distance away from your destination, or taking a daily walk around the block.
- Manage stress by integrating time each day for relaxing activities.
- Reduce distractions.
- Get plenty of fresh air, avoiding contact with any airborne toxins.
- Make a practical list of to-dos, and prioritize them.
- Use memory-assisting tools such as alerts and notifications on your phone.
- Create and stick to a routine to help with your specific concerns; for instance, if you are having difficulties with misplacing items, make a habit of consistently placing your keys, wallet, etc. in the same spot every single day.
Seniorcorp’s caregivers are experienced in caring for individuals with cancer, before, during, and after treatment. We develop a customized plan of care that details any challenges being faced and outlining solutions to help overcome them, through services such as:
- Planning and preparing nourishing meals that are appetizing to those receiving chemotherapy
- Picking up prescriptions, grocery shopping, and running other errands as necessary
- Providing friendly companionship to take part in conversations and fun activities to brighten every day
- Light housekeeping and laundry
- Assistance with personal care needs such as dressing, bathing and using the bathroom
- And much more