"I can't find my car keys." "I can't do three things at once anymore."
Chemobrain is a common complaint among people who have gone through chemotherapy. Defined as "chemotherapy induced cognitive dysfunction," chemobrain is best known to people living with cancer as that annoying memory glitch that follows chemotherapy.
Sometimes it is forgetting the little things - where did you put your car keys? Sometimes it's finding it more difficult to multitask. Other times it shows it's face as difficulty concentrating or a shorter attention span.
Since there isn't one medical treatment alone that resolves the problem of chemobrain, alternative treatments are being evaluated to determine if they can effectively reduce the symptoms.
Researchers divided a group of breast cancer patients into one group that received 60 mg twice a day of a ginkgo biloba supplement, and another who received a placebo. The patients were questioned and tested for cognitive function after the first round of chemotherapy, at intervals during treatment, and up to 24 months after treatment was completed. Unfortunately, the group who received gingko fared no better than the group who received placebo.
There are some things that can make coping with chemobrain a bit easier. A few of these include:
- Keep a calendar handy to help you remember important dates.
- Try to avoid multitasking. Many cancer survivors claim that focusing on a single task at a time is very helpful.
- Keep a daily to do list, and prioritize activities around your energy level.
- Organize your home and car so you have a place for everything. In addition to making housework so much easier, you are less likely to lose important items like your car keys if you return them to the same place each time you use them.
- Exercise your brain. Whether it is doing crossword puzzles, Sudoku, or games such as scrabble, exercising your brain may be helpful.
- Turn off the television and radio. Eliminating extraneous noise while having a conversation can make it easier to focus on the person you are communicating with.
- Eat well, exercise, and sleep well. These basics that we hear from the time we are very young are more important than ever if you are suffering from chemobrain.
Check out this article to learn more about the symptom of chemobrain and what has worked for others.
Barton, D. et al. The use of Ginkgo biloba for the prevention of chemotherapy-induced cognitive dysfunction in women receiving adjuvant treatment for breast cancer, NOOC9. Supportive Care in Cancer. 2012. DOI: 10.1007/s00520-012-1647-9. (Online First).