What Is Chemo Brain Fog and How Can You Reduce Its Effects?

senior man holding head

Chemo brain fog is not uncommon following cancer treatment.

Confusion. Short-term memory problems. Inability to focus. Could it be Alzheimer’s?

Possibly; however if you are a cancer survivor, there is another likely culprit that may be at play: chemotherapy. Referred to as chemotherapy induced cognitive impairment (CICI) or “chemo brain,” effects such as these can continue for months or even years post-treatment.

Chemo brain fog can happen in any individual receiving chemotherapy as well as surgery, radiation, or hormonal treatments, even without chemo. Additionally, the cancer itself can cause cognitive problems as well, compounding the difficulty of effectively relieving the condition.

Dr. Kevin Liou of the Bendhaim Integrative Medicine Center of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center states, “Cancer-related cognitive impairment is now understood to be a complex, multi-factorial problem with various contributory factors.”

As a result, chemo brain fog can result any time during or after cancer treatment, presenting with symptoms that create problems with:

  • Multitasking
  • Reading comprehension
  • Selecting the proper word (i.e., remembering the name of a person or familiar object)
  • Completing sentences
  • Processing information
  • Attention span

A broad sense of fuzziness has also been reported. Taking these steps can help improve cognitive functioning if chemo brain is affecting you or someone you love:

  • Prioritize obtaining 6 – 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Exercise each day for a minimum of 20 – 30 minutes. This can be as simple as taking the stairs rather than the elevator, selecting a parking space farther away from your destination, or taking a regular walk around the block.
  • Manage stress by incorporating time each day for soothing activities.
  • Reduce distractions.
  • Get plenty of fresh air, protecting against contact with any airborne toxins.
  • Make a practical list of to-dos, and prioritize them.
  • Use memory-assisting tools such as alerts and notifications on your smartphone.
  • Create and stick to a routine to assist with your particular concerns; for example, if you’re having difficulties with misplacing items, make a habit of always placing your wallet, keys, etc. in the same position every single day.

CareWorks Health Services’ caregivers are experienced in caring for individuals with cancer, before, during, and after treatment. We develop a customized plan of care that details any challenges being faced and outlining solutions to help overcome them, through services such as:

  • Planning and preparing healthy meals that are appetizing to individuals receiving chemotherapy
  • Picking up prescriptions, grocery shopping, and running other errands as necessary
  • Providing friendly companionship to take part in conversations and fun activities to brighten each day
  • Light housekeeping and laundry
  • Help with personal care needs such as bathing, dressing and using the bathroom
  • And more

Call us today at (949) 859-4700 to learn more about our Huntington Beach home health care services. For a full list of all of the communities where we provide care, please visit our Service Area page.