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Memory and Concentration

Some patients may notice changes in concentration, or short-term memory, during chemotherapy treatment. This is sometimes called chemo-brain.

You may notice very slight changes in your ability to remember simple things, such as recalling the name of a friend or remembering where you left your glasses. Or you may start to find it difficult to concentrate and you may be more easily distracted.

Chemotherapy may play a role in causing these problems. There may be other reasons too. For example, anxiety, depression, changes in routine, and poor nutrition, caused by lack of appetite, could also cause concentration or memory problems. Certain types of cancer can affect the brain. Sometimes other medications, such as those used to control nausea, can affect your concentration.

Your healthcare team may be able to suggest ways to help manage changes in memory and improve your concentration. These side effects often go away gradually once your chemotherapy is finished. Sometimes they can last up to a year after treatment is over.

Scientific research is currently investigating why certain people experience memory and concentration problems, while others do not. It appears that people who have received chemotherapy or radiation to the head area are at a higher risk for developing these problems.

What you can do

  • Plan activities where you need to concentrate more for the times of the day when you are most rested.
  • Keep track of things by making lists.
  • Ask a family member, or friend, to help you to remember by listening, taking notes, and asking questions at appointments.
  • Set up reminder notes around the house to help you remember shall household tasks.
  • Manage stress and learn relaxation techniques to help you stay calm even in challenging situations.
  • Repeat facts and details out loud that you need to remember.
  • Go over what you plan to say in advance, going over names, dates, and essential points.

Southlake Regional Health Centre
596 Davis Drive, Newmarket, Ontario   L3Y 2P9
Tel: 905-895-4521   |   TTY: 905-952-3062
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