People sometimes develop what is called chemo brain or brain fog during or after treatment. Chemo brain is a cognitive change where patients can be more forgetful, have difficulty focusing, may be slower to respond and have trouble finding words. This can be caused by chemotherapy, radiation, or the cancer itself. These symptoms can fade relatively quickly after treatment, or they can persist.
Fatigue, depression, anxiety, poor nutrition/hydration, and medications may also contribute to or worsen chemo brain. First, address these issues with the assistance of your health care provider, to see if it helps with your mental clarity. You can also try some of these recommendations:
Minimize distractions during tasks.
Don’t try to multi-task. Prioritize your tasks and do them one at a time.
Jog your memory with notes and reminders.
Keep a small notebook or planner and a pen on hand to keep notes and to help remember things. If you have a smart phone, utilize the notes and calendar functions. Set alarms with reminders on your smart phone.
Pick a spot.
Designate a spot for commonly used items and keep them there when not in use. For example, when you’re finished watching television, put your remote in the same spot each time.
Exercise your brain.
Read, do crossword puzzles or other word games, or learn a new skill or hobby.
Exercise your body.
Exercise has been shown to help boost your mood and decrease fatigue, which could be a contributor.
Make a routine.
Try to follow a routine for daily tasks. If you feel that chemo brain is severely interfering with everyday tasks and work, talk with your doctor. They may be able to refer you to a specialist who may have additional recommendations.