What is chemo brain?

The term chemo brain refers to a cognitive problem. It can be defined as the reduction of mental acuity, the inability to remember certain things and the difficulty in completing tasks or learning new ones.

Chemo brain affects the daily lives of many people with cancer, may occur during and after cancer chemotherapy treatment.

What causes chemo brain?

The chemo brain it can cause difficulties to think, concentrate and do homework. These problems can be minor, however, they can be so serious that people get to present difficulties to work or perform their daily activities.

Cognitive problems may be caused by chemotherapy used to treat cancer. Many cancer treatments, including certain types of chemotherapy and radiation, can cause short-term and long-term problems.

The chemo brain It could also happen because of the cancer itself, and maybe for other medications used to treat cancer. Some people with cancer have very real brain problems even if they have not received chemotherapy.

On the other hand, anxiety, stress, fatigue, patient age, depression and diseases such as diabetes or hypertension, are factors that can cause short-term problems.

The chemo brain may disappear after treatment ends. However, for some people it can last for months or years, once the treatment is finished.

What are the symptoms of chemo brain?

Symptoms vary by person, but some of them are:

  • They have trouble concentrating, they have brief attention intervals.
  • Difficulty remembering details as names and dates.
  • They cannot perform multiple tasks at once, how to answer the phone while cooking, not forgetting one of them.
  • It takes longer to finish things, are more disorganized. They are also slower to reason and process information.

Discover: 5 best exercises to improve our memory

How is it treated?

The duration of the chemo brain is an important factor in assessing the degree to which it affects the life of a person. In most people, Effects in the brain usually appear quickly and last a short time.

People who have chemo brain They perfectly realize the differences in their reasoning. Many times they do not notify this problem to their cancer care team until it affects their daily lives.

If you have chemo brain and are receiving chemotherapy, the doctor can try a different type of treatment to see if this interrupts cognitive problems, or also assess other alternatives.

What can you do to cope with chemo brain?

There are many things you can do to face the chemo brain. Here are some of them.

  • Use memory aid, such as sticky notes and help calendars to remember events and tasks. Some people always carry a notebook to write down important dates, lists of things to do and names of people.
  • Exercise your brain: For example, solve crosswords or learn a new language.
  • Rest and get enough sleep.
  • Do physical activity on a regular basis and try to follow a diet rich in vegetables.
  • Set routines, especially for daily tasks, so that you get used to doing the same things in the same order every day.
  • Don't try to do several things at once and ask for help when you need it.
  • Keep a diary and record memory problems: write down how much you slept, the level of stress or other things that would have happened. These notes can help your doctor suggest more things that are useful.
  • Seek support: Talk to your family and close friends about the problem so they know what is happening.

Can chemo brain be prevented?

Until now, the way to prevent chemo brain is unknown.. In the case of some people, cancer treatment will mean problems with memory, as well as problems with reasoning and finding the right words.

The causes of brain problems related to cancer and their treatment are still being studied. It seems that the chemo brain occurs most frequently with high doses of chemotherapy, being more likely if cancer treatment combines chemotherapy and radiation.

Read also: What is anticancer chemotherapy


Chemo brain is a mild disorder and often goes away over time. Because, Chemotherapy that proves to work against cancer should not be changed to prevent this side effect.