Chemo Brain: What Is It and How Is It Treated?

Chemo Brain: What Is It and How Is It Treated?

March 08, 2021

Written by Lori Jo Vest

Fact checked by The Brain Blog Team

Chemo Brain: What is it and how is it treated? 

People undergoing chemotherapy become intimately familiar with the term “chemo brain,” as that feeling of cloudiness and mental fog that so often comes during and after treatment. Doctors and other medical professionals call it “post-chemo cognitive impairment” or “cancer-related cognitive change.”    

This perceived impairment in thinking, learning, and problem-solving can be caused by the chemotherapy drugs, cancer or other disease being treated, secondary medical conditions like hypertension, or even anxiety about the condition or treatment.    

The chemotherapy medications most likely to cause chemo brain include Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Adrucil (5-FU), and Taxol (paclitaxel).

Symptoms of Chemo Brain

Some of the symptoms of chemo brain include:

  • Difficulty concentrating or staying focused on tasks
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty coming up with a specific word or recalling a name during conversations
  • Losing essential items like keys, cell phones, or wallets
  • Inability to remember appointments or items on the to-do list   

If you’re having difficulty with negative changes to your cognitive functioning, be sure and mention it to your oncologist or primary care physician to ensure your future brain health. They may recommend you see a neuropsychologist.    

According to the experts at M.D. Anderson, “Symptoms of chemo brain can fade after chemotherapy ends, but each patient is different. Some may take a year or more after treatment to feel normal again; others may never regain their full mental ability.

Managing and Treating Chemo Brain

There are several ways to improve cognitive function during and after chemotherapy treatment, including non-medical and medical options. After you’ve discussed your symptoms with your doctor, these coping strategies might be helpful, too. 

Get enough sleep

To ensure good brain health, adults should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. If you’re not sleeping well, address the cause and possible OTC treatments with your physician or pharmacist. 

Manage your moods

If you’re feeling anxiety or depression, do what you can to reduce your stress levels and add relaxing rituals to your day, like a long soak in the bath or a 20-minute meditation. If your feelings seem unmanageable, seek immediate help from your PCP or oncologist.    

Know, too, that a diagnosis of cancer or any other serious illness can cause “medical PTSD,” which is often treatable with talk therapy and/or medication. PTSD brings its own set of symptoms, though some may mimic chemo brain. 

Use organizing tools

There’s a reason so many adults use to-do lists and calendars to manage their day-to-day activities. It just makes life easier. You may be less able to track these things consistently when you’re struggling with chemo brain, so use your tools to keep you on track. 

Get active

Your brain benefits from increased oxygen flow when you do aerobic exercise. Even a 10-minute walk around the block can help clear your mind and energize you mentally and physically.

Supporting Your Brain Health During Chemo Brain

While some people stop experiencing chemo brain immediately after treatment, other patients experience it for months or even years. So what can you do if you’re one of the “lucky few” with lingering brain fog after chemotherapy? After you’ve discussed it with your doctor, consider that many experts recommend supporting brain health through nutritional supplementation.  To learn more, click to read our Guide to the Best Supplements for Brain Health 2021.

Specifically, there’s only one nutritional supplement, Memory Health®, that has received an official United States Patent for the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative disease.  While the specifically has been proven for patients with Alzheimer's disease and dementia, patients suffering from traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, mild cognitive impairment, brain fog, and chemo brain have also experienced major benefits and improvements in quality of life after taking the supplement daily. This patented supplement has been scientifically proven in double-blind, placebo-controlled studies to improve cognitive function, memory, sight, focus, and mood. Learn more about it here: The Science Behind Memory Health®  

To learn more about a real tumor patient's experience on the Memory Health® supplement, read the following brain blog article: 

The Gold Standard of Brain Supplementation

Memory Health® was tested and proven in double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials, becoming the first supplement to receive a patent for the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative disease, specifically Alzheimer's and dementia. It has been clinically proven to improve cognitive functions and memory.  Other tested benefits include improvement in sight, focus, clarity, and mood.

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