- 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 or, sometimes, “chemo brain” or “cancer 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 this issue is affecting your day-to-day life or your return to work.
Tips for managing cognitive changes
- Use a calendar to keep track of tasks, appointments, social commitments, birthdays,
- Write down anything you need to remember, g. to-do items, where you parked the car, when to take medicine.
- Get plenty of sleep. Deep sleep is important for memory and concentration.
- Do light exercise every day to help you feel more alert and sleep
- Learn something new, g. take up a new hobby or do crosswords or puzzles.
- Discuss these issues with your partner, family or workplace, and ask for their support or
- For more on this, see Changes in Thinking and Memory, or listen to The Thing About Cancer podcast episode on brain fog.
Dr Prunella Blinman, Medical Oncologist, Concord Cancer Centre, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, and Clinical Senior Lecturer, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Gillian Blanchard, Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Julie Bolton, Consumer; Keely Gordon-King, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; John Jameson, Consumer; Dr Zarnie Lwin, Medical Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and Senior Lecturer, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Felicia Roncolato, Medical Oncology Staff Specialist, Macarthur Cancer Therapy Centre, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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