ChemoBrain or NO?
by Moving For Life Blog on January 16th, 2013

"But doctor, I'm forgetting things all the time!"  Many patients express frustration that their doctors don't acknowledge the cognitive effects of chemotherapy. These are referred to as "chemobrain" to describe a cluster of felt side-effects of chemotherapy specific to mental functioning.  The term chemobrain is now used by some in the medical profession and has been especially picked up by the media because it's catchy. Symptoms include the phenomena of poor concentration, loss of word retention, fuzzy thinking, and general inability to process those tasks which were taken for granted before treatment.  Not everyone likes the term especially because its not always clear that the chemotherapy is the only cause of mental fog during the cancer experience.  Cancer is stressful and this stress alone may be causative of forgetfulness and slow processing.  We are all aging and that can be related to mental fatigue, as can sleep deprivation.  According to the latest research, it is not yet known what causes "chemobrain" or more specifically, cancer-related cognitive impairments.  

What is important is that physicians are recognizing that persisting mental dysfunction symptoms  are "real" and need studying in order to help alleviate them.   Studies underway "combine neuropsychological testing with brain imaging and molecular analyses to get a handle on what had previously been seen as an indescribable phenomena." (JNCI, 01/29/2008).   There are treatments now being recommended for the cognitive stress by physicians working with cancer patients. 

Read a post from Gilmore Medical Center describing symptoms and suggestions for alleviating them.

How have you experienced cognitive stress or dysfunction?  Do you identify with the term "chemobrain?"  Is there a term you prefer?    How has your life been affected?  What advice or care have you received from your physician? We'd love to dialogue about it with you. 

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