March 9, 2022
Confusion. Short-term memory problems. Inability to focus. Could it be Alzheimer’s?
Possibly; but if you’re a cancer survivor, there is another common culprit that may be at play: chemotherapy. Referred to as chemotherapy induced cognitive impairment (CICI) or “chemo brain,” effects such as these can last for months or even years after treatment.
Chemo brain can happen in anyone receiving chemotherapy as well as surgery, radiation, or hormonal treatments, even without chemo. Additionally, the cancer itself can cause cognitive issues as well, adding to the difficulty with effectively relieving the condition.
Dr. Kevin Liou of the Bendhaim Integrative Medicine Center of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center shares, “Cancer-related cognitive impairment is now understood to be a complex, multi-factorial problem with various contributory factors.”
Because of this, chemo brain can occur any time during or after cancer treatment, presenting with symptoms such as difficulty with:
- Reading comprehension
- Selecting the proper word (for example, remembering the name of a person or common object)
- Completing sentences
- Processing information
- Attention span
An over-all sense of fuzziness has also been reported. Taking these steps will help maximize cognitive performance if chemo brain is impacting you or a loved one:
- Prioritize obtaining 6 – 8 hours of sleep every night.
- Exercise each day for at least 20 – 30 minutes. This can be as simple as taking the stairs rather than the elevator, choosing a parking space farther away from your destination, or taking a daily walk around the block.
- Manage stress by integrating time every single day for soothing activities.
- Minimize distractions.
- Get sufficient amounts of fresh air, protecting against contact with any airborne toxins.
- Make a feasible list of to-dos, and prioritize them.
- Use memory-assisting tools such as alerts and notifications on your phone.
- Create and stick to a routine to assist with your particular concerns; for example, if you are struggling with misplacing items, make a habit of consistently placing your keys, wallet, etc. in the identical position each day.
Continuum’s dedicated providers of help at home in St. Charles and nearby areas are skilled in caring for adults with cancer, before, during, and after treatment. We create a customized plan of care that details any difficulties being faced and outlining strategies to help overcome them, through services such as:
- Planning and preparing healthy meals that are appetizing to individuals receiving chemotherapy
- Grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, and running other errands as necessary
- Providing pleasant companionship to take part in conversations and fun activities to brighten each day
- Laundry and light housekeeping
- Help with personal care needs such as bathing, dressing and using the bathroom
- And much more