Confusion. Short-term memory problems. Lack of ability to concentrate. Could it be Alzheimer’s?
Possibly; but if you’re a cancer survivor, there’s another likely culprit that may be at play: chemotherapy. Known as chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment (CICI) or “chemo brain,” effects like these can last for months and even years after treatment.
Chemo brain can happen in someone receiving chemotherapy as well as surgery, radiation, or hormonal treatments, even without chemo. Additionally, the cancer itself may 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.”
As a result, chemo brain can occur any time during or following cancer treatment, presenting with symptoms such as difficulty with:
- Reading comprehension
- Finding the right word (i.e., remembering the name of an individual or common object)
- Completing sentences
- Processing information
- Attention span
An over-all sense of fuzziness has also been reported. Taking the following steps will help improve cognitive functioning if chemo brain is impacting you or a loved one:
- 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 as opposed to the elevator, choosing a parking space a greater distance from your destination, or taking a regular walk around the block.
- Manage stress by incorporating time every day for relaxing activities.
- Minimize potential distractions.
- Get sufficient amounts 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 phone.
- Create and stick to a routine to assist with your specific concerns; for example, if you are having difficulties with misplacing items, make a habit of always placing your keys, wallet, etc. in the same place each day.
Home Sweet Home In-Home Care’s experts in elderly care in Niles, MI and surrounding areas are knowledgeable in caring for adults with cancer, before, during, and after treatment. We develop a customized plan of care that addresses any challenges being faced and outlining strategies to help overcome them, through services such as:
- Planning and preparing healthy and balanced meals that are palatable to individuals receiving chemotherapy
- Picking up prescriptions, grocery shopping, and running other errands as needed
- Providing friendly companionship to take part in conversations and fun activities to brighten each day
- Laundry and light housekeeping
- Help with personal care needs such as dressing, bathing and using the bathroom
- And much more