Brain fog

“Chemo brain”, sometimes referred to as “brain fog”, is a common and debilitating challenge affecting people facing cancer. Several factors can affect brain function in cancer survivors: chemotherapy, stress, fatigue, hormone therapy, surgery, even the disease itself.

These neurocognitive changes manifest themselves as lack of concentration, memory loss or impairment, and difficulty multitasking and planning. Symptoms can impact all aspects of life from decision-making and performance, which can affect work and income, to confidence, mood, relationships, the ability to drive a vehicle, and a person’s sense of self. [1]

Brain fog might last for years after treatment is finished, and it can be very frustrating and debilitating. Unfortunately, this condition is not very well-understood medically.

Some survivors may experience a genuine fear that things will never improve. However, there are many things you can do to help alleviate mental dysfunction [2].

  • Regular physical activity to reduce tiredness and improve alertness
  • Brain exercise – solving puzzles, learning new languages, and playing “brain games” can all be effective
  • Daily planners to keep track of tasks, dates, phone numbers, and more
  • Getting sufficient rest and sleep
  • Eating vegetables – studies have shown that eating more vegetables is associated with higher brain power in older people
  • Having a specific place to store commonly lost objects (like keys)
  • Avoiding multi-tasking, focusing on one thing at a time
  • Asking for help from friends and family
  • Taking note of when your memory problems are most noticeable (ex. when you’re hungry, at a certain time of day, etc.)
  • Accepting the symptoms – many cancer patients and survivors have noted that it’s helpful to be able to laugh about things

[1] https://www.ottawacancer.ca/brain-fog/

[2] https://rubanrose.org/foundation/news/mental-fog-or-chemobrain