- Cancer Information
- Practical concerns
- Cancer, work and you
- For workers
- Coping with side effects
- Thinking and memory changes
Thinking and memory changes
Your job might require you to interact with others, solve problems and concentrate for long periods of time. After cancer treatment, it can be difficult to concentrate. You may feel like you are in a fog. This is called cancer-related cognitive impairment. Other terms used to describe this include “chemo brain”, “cancer fog” and “brain fog”.
These changes may be caused by the cancer or cancer treatments, and they usually improve with time. Tell your doctor about any thinking or memory problems you are having.
Tips for improving concentration
- Get plenty of sleep. Deep sleep is important for memory and concentration.
- Keep a diary or set appointment reminders on your phone.
- Carry a small notepad or download an app to your phone so you can jot down things you need to remember.
- Create to-do lists to help keep track of the things you need to achieve. Complete tasks one at a time rather than multitasking.
- Refer to project plans, meeting minutes and other documents to jog your memory.
- Plan activities so you do things that require more concentration when you are more alert.
- If possible, let calls go to voicemail and return them when you’ve had time to prepare your response.
- Let your manager know you may need more time to finish tasks. Discuss realistic deadlines for your projects.
- Talk to an occupational therapist about strategies to improve your memory.
For more on this, see Changes in thinking and memory.
Kerryann White, Manager, People and Culture, Cancer Council SA; Nicola Martin, Principal, McCabe Curwood, NSW; Jane Auchettl, Coordinator, Education and Training Programs, Cancer Council Victoria; Craig Brewer, Consumer; Alana Cochrane, Human Resources Business Partner, Greater Bank Newcastle, NSW; Shona Gates, Senior Social Worker, North West Cancer Centre, North West Regional Hospital, TAS; Dianne Head, Cancer Nurse Coordinator, Metastatic Breast Cancer, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre Westmead, NSW; Alex Kelly, Talent Acquisition Business Partner, Aon, NSW; Prof Bogda Koczwara AM, Senior Staff Specialist, Department of Medical Oncology, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Sharyn McGowan, Occupational Therapist, Bendigo Health, VIC; Jeanne Potts, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Michelle Smerdon, Legal and Financial Support Services Manager, Cancer Council NSW. We would also like to than the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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