Many women who get chemotherapy for breast cancer complain of difficulties in their ability to remember, think, and concentrate. Researchers call these "problems in cognitive function." Women affected by breast cancer sometimes refer to the condition as "chemobrain." Difficulties can include:
- learning new tasks
- remembering names
- paying attention and concentrating
- finding words
- remembering where you left something (those darn keys!)
A new study adds to substantial evidence that these problems are real and related to treatment.
But even women who do not receive chemotherapy for breast cancer can experience thinking and memory problems. When dealing with breast cancer, other factors that might affect cognitive function include:
- medicines that treat side effects
- low blood counts
- hormonal changes
- emotional stress, anxiety, helplessness, uncertainty, and depression
- abrupt changes in your life: altered routines, expectations, responsibilities
- sleep deprivation and fatigue
- growing older
The good news is that most women who receive chemotherapy recover their ability to think and remember clearly a year or two after chemotherapy is done. And if you are experiencing thinking and memory difficulties there are things that can help.
In August 2006, Breastcancer.org held an Ask-the-Expert Online Conference on cognitive difficulties. The transcript of that conference allows you to share the experiences and questions of others and the responses from medical experts. You can also get tips on:
- ways to manage your memory challenges
- ways to keep your mind alert
- getting more and better quality sleep
- staying safe when you're not so alert
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