- Cancer Information
- Cancer treatment
- Managing chemotherapy side effects
- Thinking and memory changes
Thinking and memory changes
Some people say they have difficulty concentrating, focusing and remembering things after they have had chemotherapy. This is called cancer-related cognitive impairment. Other terms used to describe this include “chemo brain”, “cancer fog” and “brain fog”.
Thinking and memory changes may be caused by treatment or medicines, fatigue and sleep problems, or emotional concerns, such as stress or depression. These problems usually improve with time, although some people experience issues for years.
Tell your doctor about any thinking and memory changes you are having and if they are affecting your day-to-day life or your work.
Ways to improve concentration
- Use a calendar or set a timer on your phone to keep track of tasks, medical appointments, when to take medicines, social commitments, birthdays, etc.
- Write down anything you need to remember, e.g. to-do items, where you parked the car.
- Get plenty of sleep. Deep sleep is important for memory and concentration.
- Do light exercise every day to help you be more alert and sleep better.
- Learn something new, e.g. take up a new hobby or do crosswords or puzzles.
- Discuss changes to your ability to concentrate and remember things with your partner, family or workplace, and ask for their support or assistance.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Clinical A/Prof Rosemary Harrup, Director, Cancer and Blood Services, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Katie Benton, Advanced Dietitian, Cancer Care, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Queensland Health, QLD; Gillian Blanchard, Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Stacey Burton, Consumer; Dr Fiona Day, Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Senior Lecturer, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Andrew Greig, Consumer; Steve Higgs, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Prof Desmond Yip, Clinical Director, Department of Medical Oncology, The Canberra Hospital, ACT.
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