Happy 4th of July.
This does seem a rather odd choice of topics for this morning, but we were just laughing here about my husband's forgetting to turn on the dishwasher last night (wondered why the glasses didn't look clean when I started to unload it) and my neglect of an errand yesterday that resulted in some rather creative making do for this morning's breakfast. I don't think we can blame chemobrain for either mishap; he has never, thankfully, had chemo, and I haven't for seven years. However, there are plenty of other reasons for lapsed memories, and being totally relaxed and on vacation are probably responsible.
My personal and professional experiences with chemobrain are variable. I personally never had real problems (although, I guess, it is possible that I did, and that part of the problem was not recognizing that there was a problem). I have known a number of women who felt that their mental acuity was very negatively impacted by cancer treatment. It always seems impossible to tease out the contributions of stress and sleep difficulties and medications and chemo itself, but surely some people have problems. I particularly remember an accountant who described looking at computer screens full of numbers and having no idea what to make of them. Most people recover their cognitive sharpness fairly quickly, but it can be a lingering and painful problem.
This is a good summary from ASCO's CancerNet about cognitive issues. Here is the beginning and then a link:
This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 02/12
Cognitive problems, also referred to as cognitive deficits or dysfunction, occur when a person has difficulties processing information, including mental tasks such as attention, thinking, and memory. Approximately 20% of people who undergo chemotherapy will experience some cognitive problem side effects, including children. The difficulties they face usually vary in severity and make it hard to complete daily activities. People who experience severe cognitive problems are encouraged to speak with their doctor and/or social worker about ways to manage the problems they face.
Relieving side effects, also called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care, is an important part of cancer care and treatment. Talk with your health care team about any symptoms you or the person you are caring for experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.
Cognitive problems include difficulties in many areas, such as: Difficulty concentrating or paying attention (short attention span) Memory loss or difficulty remembering things (especially problems with short-term memory) Problems with comprehension or understanding Difficulties with judgment and reasoning Impaired arithmetic, organizational, and language skills (such as not being able to organize thoughts, find the right word, or balance a checkbook) Problems performing multiple tasks (multitasking) Behavioral and emotional changes, such as irrational behavior, mood swings, inappropriate anger or crying, and socially inappropriate behavior.
Of special note, "chemo brain," sometimes called "chemo fog," is the term often used by cancer survivors to describe the cognitive problems experienced by some people after receiving chemotherapy. These people may experience long-term problems with mental skills such as memory, thinking, and concentration. People sometimes say that chemo brain feels like being in a mental fog.
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And here is a link to another study that suggests that women who were treated with CMF chemotherapy for breast cancer (as I was in 1993 as it was then the standard of care; it is used much less often now) may have subtle longterm problems.
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