How to Reduce Cognitive changes (Chemo Brain)

Though chemo brain is a widely used term, the causes of concentration and memory problems during and after cancer treatment are not well-understood, leading to no known cure or treatment.

However, there are some simple techniques that can help you to learn how to cope with the symptoms. In most cases, cancer-related memory problems are temporary, but each patient is different. Some may take a year or more after treatment to feel normal again. 

Techniques to try:

 Avoid Distractions
  • When you need to focus, try this in an uncluttered, peaceful environment.
  • This may help you stay focused for longer periods of time.
Organise your environment
  • Keep things in familiar places so it’s easier to remember where they are.
Train yourself to focus
  • If you keep misplacing items, take extra time to think about or picture what you’re doing every time you put something down.
  • Try saying out loud to yourself, “I’m putting my phone on my dresser.” Then look at it again, and repeat.
  • Hearing cues may give your memory an extra boost.
Listen to music 
  • Music can boost the brain’s production of the hormone dopamine. This increased dopamine production helps relieve feelings of anxiety and depression.
Do something tackle 
  • When feeling stress try getting out of your head and into your senses which can bring you back to the here and now. This can be as simple as sucking on a sweet or popping bubble wrap, or maybe try arts and crafts.
Play with a pet 
  • Bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness.
Use a detailed daily planner, notebooks, reminder notes, or your smartphone
  • Keeping everything in one place makes it easier to find the reminders you may need, keep track of appointments and schedules, to-do lists, important dates ect.
  • Try sticking notes around the house to help remind you.
  • Never be afraid to ask family and friends for help, we all need help at some point!

 

Symptoms from cognitive changes can be frustrating and debilitating, especially when cancer and cancer treatment can lead to other side effects. This can include, anaemia, depression, sleep problems and anxiety, which may worsen memory problems.

With time, you'll find ways to adapt so that concentration will become easier and memory problems may fade. Until then, know that this is a common problem that's likely to improve with time.

Controlling these other factors below may make it easier to cope during cancer treatment 

Anaemia
  • Eat iron rich foods and food containing vitamin C.
  • You can enhance your body's absorption of iron by drinking citrus juice or eating other foods rich in vitamin C at the same time that you eat high-iron foods.
Sleep Problems
  • Increase bright light during the day to help keep your circadian rhythm healthy.
  • Take shorter naps during the day. Check out out power nap blog for more info. 
  • Relaxation techniques before bed have been shown to improve sleep quality and are another common technique used to treat insomnia. 
Fatigue 
Stress 
For more help read our blog -  'Nutrition Tips for Cognitive Changes'