- Cancer Information
- Cancer treatment
- Managing 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).
- Talk to your partner, family or workplace about changes to your memory and concentration – they may be able to give you more support or assistance.
For more on this, see Changes in thinking and memory, and listen to our podcast below.
Podcast: Brain Fog and Cancer
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Prof Timothy Price, Medical Oncologist, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, SA; Graham Borgas, Consumer: Dr Joanna Dewar, Medical Oncologist and Clinical Professor, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and The University of Western Australia, WA; Justin Hargreaves, Medical Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Bendigo Health Cancer Centre, VIC; Angela Kritikos, Senior Oncology Dietitian, Dietetic Department, Liverpool Hospital, NSW; Dr Kate Mahon, Director of Medical Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Georgie Pearson, Consumer; Chris Rivett, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Marissa Ryan, Acting Consultant Pharmacist (Cancer Services), Pharmacy Department, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD.
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