What is "chemo brain"?

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Question from Bonnie: What is "chemo brain"?
Answers - Julie Gralow, M.D. Good question! Chemo brain is another common complaint. What we're really talking about is some fuzziness in processing things—memory problems, forgetting where you put your keys, things like that. It is documented that women on chemotherapy do have changes in cognition. Once the chemotherapy has ended, it generally improves significantly over time. However, some studies suggest that even a year later you might be able to detect some small changes.

Of course, with aging, we all have changes in our memory, and we all become forgetful. So when my patients complain about minor forgetfulness, I remind them that it's common for all of us. In some cases, the problem is really about being too busy and not having time to process things. So being well organized and a little less busy can sometimes help with memory problems.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. When major disruptions in your life, like a breast cancer diagnosis, happen quickly, and are followed by surgery, chemo, radiation, and symptoms like hot flashes, fatigue and fear, it's to be expected that your ability to function properly will be shaken. Short-term memory is a delicate process that can easily be disrupted by all these changes.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Managing Treatment Side Effects featured Julie Gralow, M.D. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about many of the short-term and long-term side effects of breast cancer treatment, and ways of minimizing them, so you can get on with your life and enjoy your day-to-day activities.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in January 2003.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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