Confusion. Short-term memory problems. Lack of ability to concentrate. Could it be dementia?
Possibly; but if you’re a cancer survivor, there’s another common culprit which can be at play: chemotherapy. Known as “chemo brain” or by its technical term, chemotherapy induced cognitive impairment (CICI), effects including these can last for months and on occasion even years after treatment.
Chemo brain can happen in someone receiving chemotherapy as well as radiation, surgery, or hormonal treatments, even without chemo. Furthermore, the cancer itself can cause cognitive problems as well, adding to the challenge with 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.”
Because of this, chemo brain may appear any time during or post cancer treatment, presenting with symptoms such as problems with:
- Reading comprehension
- Finding the right word (i.e., remembering the name of a person or familiar object)
- Completing sentences
- Processing information
- Attention span
A general sense of fuzziness has also been reported. Taking these steps will help improve cognitive functioning if chemo brain is affecting you or a loved one:
- Prioritize obtaining 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 from your destination, or taking a daily walk around the neighborhood.
- Manage stress by incorporating time every single day for relaxing activities.
- Minimize distractions.
- Get plenty of fresh air, avoiding exposure to any airborne toxins.
- Make a practical list of to-dos, and prioritize them.
- Use memory-assisting tools for example, alerts and notifications on your phone.
- Create and adhere to a routine to help with your specific concerns; for example, if you are struggling with misplacing items, make a habit of always placing your keys, wallet, etc. in the same place each day.
Serenity Home Care’s caregivers are skilled in caring for individuals with cancer, before, during, and after treatment. We develop a personalized plan of care that addresses any difficulties being faced and outlining strategies to help overcome them, through solutions such as:
- Planning and preparing healthy and balanced meals that are appetizing to individuals receiving chemotherapy
- Grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, 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
- Help with personal care needs such as dressing, bathing and using the bathroom
- And much more