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What is Chemo Brain?
Posted: Oct 15, 2023
What is Chemo Brain?	 image

Many lymphoma patients experience a side effect that's commonly known as "chemo brain". In fact, a study done by researchers at the University of Rochester found that lymphoma patients who completed chemotherapy experience worse cognitive functioning for up to six months following treatment compared to individuals without cancer.

Throughout this article, we will discuss what chemo brain is, what are the symptoms and solutions, and what might cause this side effect in lymphoma patients. 

What is Chemo Brain? 

Chemo brain, also known as chemo fog or cancer-related cognitive impairment, is a term used to describe a range of cognitive changes that some cancer patients experience during or after cancer treatment, particularly chemotherapy.

While it can affect individuals with various types of cancer, including lymphoma, it is not limited to a specific cancer type.

What Are the Symptoms of Chemo Brain?

Chemo brain is characterized by a variety of cognitive symptoms, which may include:

  • Memory problems: Difficulty remembering details, dates, and conversations
  • Difficulty concentrating: Focusing on tasks, following instructions, or staying organized
  • Slower thinking: Thought processes become slower or less efficient
  • Trouble with multitasking: Challenges juggling multiple tasks simultaneously
  • Language problems: Difficulty with language skills, trouble finding the right words or expressing thoughts clearly
  • Decreased attention span: Becoming easily distracted 
  • Impaired spatial and visual skills: Difficulty navigating or performing tasks that require spatial awareness

What Causes Chemo Brain?

The exact cause of chemo brain is not fully understood, but it is believed to result from a combination of factors, including the direct effects of chemotherapy drugs on the brain, as well as factors like inflammation, hormonal changes, and stress associated with cancer and its treatment.

It's important to note that not all cancer patients experience chemo brain, and the severity and duration of these cognitive changes can vary widely from person to person.

Additionally, chemo brain may improve or resolve over time in some cases, while others may experience long-lasting cognitive difficulties.

How is Chemo Brain Managed? What Can Be Done to Help Chemo Brain?

Managing chemo brain typically involves addressing the specific cognitive challenges the patient faces.

Strategies may include cognitive rehabilitation therapy, exercise, stress reduction techniques, and medications in some cases.

Patients are encouraged to communicate their cognitive symptoms with their healthcare team so that appropriate support and interventions can be provided to help improve their quality of life during and after cancer treatment.

Several crowd-sourced solutions in HealthTree's Side Effect Solutions tool can help you find remedies for managing chemo brain. You can also find what remedies did not work for others so you don't waste time trying multiple things! 


Are you interested in learning about solutions to other side effects? Check here: Side Effect Solutions 

Find a lymphoma specialist who understands treatment-related side effects and is an expert at helping you manage them: Lymphoma Specialist Directory

As exercise can be a remedy for chemo brain, download our HealthTree Moves App to help you stay active alongside other blood cancer patients. 

The author Audrey Burton-Bethke

about the author
Audrey Burton-Bethke

Audrey is the Editor for the HealthTree Foundation. She originally joined the HealthTree Foundation in 2020 as the Myeloma Community Program Director. While not knowing much about myeloma initially, she worked hard to educate herself, empathize and learn from others' experiences. She loves this job. Audrey is passionate about serving others, loves learning, and enjoys iced chais from Dutch Bros. She also loves spending time with her supportive husband and energetic three-year-old.