What is chemobrain?
Chemobrain refers to the cognitive impairment that can occur after cancer treatment. It’s not limited to people who get chemo (surgery and radiation can also contribute), but it’s more noticeable if you had chemotherapy.
What are some of the most common symptoms of chemobrain?
Symptoms may include decreased short-term memory, problems finding words, short attention span, and difficulty concentrating and multitasking.
The best way to get a complete picture of your cognitive functioning is to have neuropsychological testing. Your oncologist can refer you for this evaluation. Information from neuropsychological testing can also be extremely helpful to share with your employer or school if you are hoping to get accommodations at work or extra time for exams, homework etc
Is chemobrain all based on body and mind fatigue?
Chemobrain is partially based on body and mind fatigue. Animal studies have shown that chemotherapy may cause temporary reductions in cell growth in brain areas (such as the hippocampus) that control learning and memory.
Do all patients experience chemobrain, or are some patients more likely to get it?
A majority of people report cognitive problems during chemo (67% in one study). Women may be more at risk than men. Genetic differences (small variations in DNA sequences in genes, called polymorphisms) may also increase risk. These occur in a variety of genes, not just cancer-causing genes.
Does chemobrain ever go away?
For most patients, chemobrain improves within 9-12 months after completing chemotherapy, but many people still have symptoms at the six-month mark. A smaller fraction of people (approximately 10-20%) may have long-term effects.
For the minority of people who do have long-term effects, they can be noticeable even 10 years after completing treatment. However, these side effects should be stable and not worsening. If they are getting worse 10 or more years later, you should speak with your doctor.
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