Many mesothelioma patients may pursue chemotherapy as a form of treatment. Sometimes they may experience a side effect referred to as chemo brain.

Chemo brain is generally associated with chemotherapy, but individuals having other types of treatment can experience it too. It isn’t abnormal for a patient to experience it after having surgery or radiation.

Patients should not let the fear of experiencing chemo brain outweigh their decision to pursue certain treatment options. It is completely normal for them to experience this side effect.

According to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, about 14 percent to as many as 85 percent of cancer patients are affected by chemo brain.

What Is Chemo Brain?

Chemo brain is the mental clouding or fogginess that a patient may experience. This side effect can happen during or after treatment.

This fogginess occurs due to body and mental fatigue. However, studies suggest that chemotherapy may temporarily reduce cell growth in areas of the brain that control our learning and memory.

Symptoms of Chemo Brain:
  • Decreased short-term memory
  • Trouble finding words
  • Short attention span
  • Difficulty concentration
  • Problems multitasking

Typically symptoms of chemo brain will improve within 9 to 12 months. However, there is a chance that individuals may have long-term effects.

According to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, approximately 10 to 20 percent of patients will experience long-term effects.

Ask Your Doctor About Chemo Brain

If symptoms of chemo brain begin to interfere with a mesothelioma patient’s daily routine, they should speak with their doctor. In a diary or log, they should keep track of situations, questions and types of medication that they are taking. Writing this type of information down can help them address their health concerns to their doctor.

Here are some examples of questions a patient may ask their doctor.
  • Can my symptoms be treated or managed?
  • Should I see a specialist?
  • Could other medical problems be causing my symptoms?
  • Can I prevent chemo brain?

Sometimes a patient’s doctor may refer them to other healthcare specialists. These professionals may choose to run tests on their brain. They will also help them understand and learn more about the ways they can help manage their symptoms.

4 Tips for Managing Chemo Brain

Not being able to remember things or not being able to multitask like a patient once did, might cause them to become stressed or depressed. It is important that they remain calm and take the right initiatives to improve their symptoms.

Here are 4 tips that can help manage symptoms of chemo brain.
  • 1
    Ask for Help

It is completely acceptable to ask for help. Having a friend or loved one help in troubling situations can preserve mental energy.

  • 2
    Challenge Your Brain

Doing puzzles and playing games can help stimulate and improve how the brain performs. It can also help improve memory.

  • 3
    Mental Rehearsal

Repeating words or ideas out loud helps with remembering things. Researchers believe it can also help form habits and make it easier to retain information.

  • 4
    Write Things Down
This can be done in a planner, diary or even on a cell phone. The goal is to keep everything in one place. Doing this helps keep track of important information.
Tips From Nurse Jenna: “I usually encourage patients to create a daily to-do list as well as a daily medication list to reduce frustrations of potential forgetfulness. I also suggest creating a 3- month calendar of important dates/appointments before they start treatment.”

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Show Sources & Author

  1. Tips for Managing Chemobrain. DANA-FARBER Cancer Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.dana-farber.org/health-library/articles/tips-for-managing-chemobrain/. Accessed: 10/03/2017.
  2. Chemo Brain. American Cancer Society. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/changes-in-mood-or-thinking/chemo-brain.html. Accessed: 10/03/2017.
  3. Chemobrain. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Retrieved from: http://www.fredhutch.org/en/treatment/survivorship/survival-strategies/chemobrain.html. Accessed: 10/03/2017.
  4. 4 Brain Game Apps for People with Chemobrain. VeryWell. Retrieved from: https://www.verywell.com/brain-game-apps-for-chemobrain-513911. Accessed: 10/04/2017.

About the Writer, Nicole Godfrey

Nicole Godfrey is the Senior Content Writer for Mesothelioma Guide. She develops content to help educate and provide awareness about the most significant information about improving a mesothelioma patient’s prognosis.