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What to Know About 'Chemobrain'

Feeling like you're missing a few marbles since chemotherapy? It may be more than just your imagination.

"Chemobrain," or "chemofog," is reported by a majority of people who receive cancer treatment, but it often goes unrecognized and untreated.

A legitimate, diagnosable condition that is usually covered by health insurance, "chemobrain" is known medically as cognitive dysfunction. That means "difficulty processing information," and it may be caused by cancer, cancer treatment or secondary medical conditions, such as anemia.

Christina Meyers, chief of neuropsychology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, says you might be experiencing chemobrain if you have the following symptoms:

  • Have difficulty multitasking
  • Confuse dates and appointments
  • Misplace objects
  • Forget details of recent events or conversations
  • Fumble for the right word or phrase
  • Have difficulty focusing on one task
  • Feel mentally "slower" than before

After her cancer treatment for stage 4 lymphoma, it didn't take Becky Morris long to realize her brain didn't function the same as it had previously.

"It took me a while to truly understand what 'chemobrain' meant," she said. "I remember during chemo it felt as if brain cells were exploding, but I didn't consider that it really was happening."

Fatigue, pain, sleep disturbance and depression can make chemobrain worse. But professional guidance and certain tools, including the following, can help you cope:

Discuss the problem with your health care practitioner.

Printed with permission from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center © 2010. 

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