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Chemo Brain 101

Symptoms of Chemo Brain

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Chemo brain shows up in the following possible ways:

  • Memory loss. Working memory is impaired. Retrieving previously learned information may be difficult.
  • Difficulty remembering common words or details.
  • A general blunting of mental sharpness.
  • The amount of new information that can be learned at one time may be reduced.
  • Difficulty concentrating or paying attention.
  • Difficulty doing more than one task at a time. For example, talking on the telephone while cooking.
  • Being easily distracted.
  • Losing a train of thought.
  • It can take longer to finish tasks (which can result in trouble meeting deadlines).
  • Feeling overwhelmed when more than one thing is happening at the same time, for instance, more than one conversation.
  • A general feeling that you are not functioning as you once did. As Sarah put it: "I'm still able to function. It's just the fine degree of memory or the speed at which I'd be able to recall information."

Reasoning and problem solving tend not to be affected.

The effects of chemo brain are generally mild to the point that other people may not notice. The effects can be more severe.

Chemo brain may lead to a feeling of diminished independence and increased dependence, feeling scared, or feeling emotionally drained. 

Chemo brain can last for a short period of time or continue for months after termination of treatment. Chemo brain has been known to extend for longer period of time, up to 10 years.

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