How long do memory problems last?


Question from PS: How long can a patient expect to experience memory issues? I am seven months out from eight rounds of chemo and then radiation, and I still have terrible short-term memory, which seems worse than if it were long-term.
Answers - Patricia A. Ganz, M.D. The experience of memory loss associated with cancer treatments usually occurs at the time of treatment and in a small number of women persists beyond that time. Some things that may contribute to short term memory difficulties are loss of energy, difficulty sleeping, and anxiety related to fear of the cancer coming back. In addition, some of the research we are doing suggests that there may be a relationship between the cancer treatment and changes in hormones. The changes in hormones could be [due to] going through menopause as a result of the treatment or from the endocrine treatments we give as part of therapy. In terms of recovery, most women will have slow but steady improvement in memory especially if they pace themselves and try to decrease activities that may make it more difficult to concentrate.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. I remember taking care of someone who was exactly in your situation. She could barely string a sentence together without faltering. During treatment she had stopped work, lost her confidence, and began to doubt herself particularly when doing everyday normal things including talking. I just saw her two years later this past week and she was chatting up a storm. Things had gotten back to normal for her. She had put in place a number of regular rituals and routines back into her life, and she found new ways to reduce her anxiety about how she was "performing" at home, at work, and in her community. It was great to see her bounce back like that, though it did take a lot of time and effort as Dr. Ganz has suggested.

On Wednesday, August 16, 2006, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Thinking and Memory ChallengesPatricia A. Ganz, M.D. and  moderator Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about the memory and concentration challenges that can happen during and after breast cancer treatment.

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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