Coping with Chemobrain:Johns Hopkins Health

KathiM
KathiM Member Posts: 8,028 Member
edited March 2014 in Breast Cancer #1
Thought you gals would be interested:

Coping With the Mental Side Effects of Chemotherapy



You were warned: Be prepared for the possibility of nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and hair loss while undergoing chemotherapy. But you were probably not told about that unsettling state of fuzzy thinking, difficulty focusing, and memory loss that you've been experiencing. In this Special Report, Johns Hopkins discusses chemobrain -- and provides nine tips to help you cope.

Researchers now believe that from 40–80% of individuals undergoing chemotherapy experience a phenomenon they call chemobrain. Some healthcare providers have questioned whether chemobrain actually exists, as it was thought that chemotherapy drugs could not cross the blood-brain barrier that blocks most medications.

But surprising new evidence suggests that chemobrain is real and is related to structural changes in the brain caused by chemotherapy drugs. Although most research to date has been conducted on women with breast cancer, this phenomenon does not appear to be unique to any single type of cancer, and people with colorectal cancer have reported experiencing it as well.

A recent study that looked at images of the brains of women who had chemotherapy found striking physical changes after treatment. Researchers in Japan compared MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of the brains of 51 women who had undergone chemotherapy for breast cancer with those from women who had surgery only. One year after treatment, areas of the brain that are crucial for memory and problem solving were significantly smaller in the chemotherapy group. In addition, the greater the reduction in brain size, the worse the women performed on tests of memory and concentration. The good news: Three years later, both groups tested about the same, which suggests that those with chemobrain recovered.

In spite of the apparent adverse effects of chemotherapy on the brain, for many people the benefits of chemotherapy treatment outweigh the risks. And, as with other chemotherapy side effects, chemobrain doesn't affect everyone equally.

You may have no side effects, while others may have a few and still others, many, and they can be short term or last for years. The type and extent of the side effects can be related to the dose of medication given (higher doses tend to have more adverse effects), the drugs used, and your gender. In general, women are more likely to be affected than men, and the effect is greater in females, perhaps because the chemotherapy drugs cause hormonal changes similar to menopause.

9 Tips To Help You Cope -- It helps to remember that chemotherapy ends. Even if you have an ongoing chemotherapy schedule, there are periods without treatment, and during these times you're likely to experience fewer symptoms.

Of course, knowing that chemotherapy can extend life and help lower the risk of recurrence makes it easier to cope with the side effects. In a recent study of 150 people treated with chemotherapy for colorectal cancer, 35% would be willing to have the treatment again, even if it only cut the risk of recurrence by 1%.

Here are nine strategies to help you cope with your chemotherapy side effects:

Keep track. Note your symptoms, and talk with your doctor and healthcare team about changes you notice and ask what can help. Experienced chemotherapy nurses have many tips and suggestions for coping.
Ask for referrals. Consider counseling for emotional stress, cognitive retraining for chemobrain, and support groups.


Write it down. A daily organizer or a notebook to write down "things to do" and completed tasks helps counter chemobrain.


Post-it. Stick-up notes are great reminders.


Sleep on it. Getting enough sleep is important to keep your mind alert. If symptoms keep you from sleeping through the night, consider short naps.


Exercise your body. Physical activity helps with mental functioning and can relieve stress, pain, and other symptoms. Consider yoga and tai chi: The repetitive exercises are good for mind and body.


Exercise your mind. Puzzles and games help improve mental function as well as help distract you from thinking about more stressful concerns.


De-stress. Stress makes most symptoms worse. Deep relaxation and stress reduction courses may help. Films, videos, and music are relaxing for many people.


Simplify. Save energy for the most important tasks. Multitasking may be harder than it used to be, and keeping track of a full schedule may be physically and mentally stressful.


Kathi

Comments

  • chenheart
    chenheart Member Posts: 5,159
    Chemonesia
    Kathi~

    I was going to comment and thank you earlier for this informative post, but I forgot what I was reading halfway through it, I didn't remember who I was going to thank, and then...I went out to breakfast and forgot I ever had cancer. For half an hour or so, anyway!

    Thanks for doing the research for us; you are a blessing!

    Hugs,
    Claudia
  • Moopy23
    Moopy23 Member Posts: 1,751 Member
    Informative Article
    Thanks for posting this, Kathi.
  • mmontero38
    mmontero38 Member Posts: 1,510
    Chemo brain Kemo Sabe
    Thank you Kathi, my family all thinks I'm nuts when I say I have chemo brain, maybe now, they'll believe me. LOL Hugs, Lili
  • tasha_111
    tasha_111 Member Posts: 2,072

    Chemo brain Kemo Sabe
    Thank you Kathi, my family all thinks I'm nuts when I say I have chemo brain, maybe now, they'll believe me. LOL Hugs, Lili

    Chemo Brain?
    I had arranged to pick my friend up and take her to the post office yesterday, she got mightily hosed off with me when I said I had to be quick because I had told her we would go for coffee and chats etc etc. I remembered saying I would pick her up at 10, but NOT the coffee bit....I STILL don't remember the coffee bit! So I turned up at ten and she said "Don't worry about it. My husband will take me out AND for coffee"..I didn't know wether to be upset or furious or just disappointed... I still don't. I sent her an email yesterday saying that I didn't mean to let her down, but for her please to do some research into chemo-brain, to help her understand (if she cares to), also that this is not an excuse, it is real and if I could make it not so, believe me I would!..Rant over. Thanks all J xxxxxxxxxx
  • EveningStar2
    EveningStar2 Member Posts: 491 Member
    chemobrain

    There was an article in the paper this morning about a study done at MD Anderson that chemobrain is real. The study used breast cancer patients although they reported that chemobrain exists with other diagnoses but they had a control group of patients with breast cancer but not undergoing chemotherapy. The good news is that the effects are temporary. The bad news is that they were comparing the two groups at three years post therapy. I did not see the study so the effects may not last that long just that that was the time when the two groups were compared.
  • Marcia527
    Marcia527 Member Posts: 2,729
    opps
    The worst chemo moment for me was when I told someone my brother had been in the Navy and he really had been in the Air Force. The scary thing was when I said it I also had a visual image of him in my head in Navy uniform.
  • rjjj
    rjjj Member Posts: 1,822 Member

    chemobrain

    There was an article in the paper this morning about a study done at MD Anderson that chemobrain is real. The study used breast cancer patients although they reported that chemobrain exists with other diagnoses but they had a control group of patients with breast cancer but not undergoing chemotherapy. The good news is that the effects are temporary. The bad news is that they were comparing the two groups at three years post therapy. I did not see the study so the effects may not last that long just that that was the time when the two groups were compared.

    I can relate
    I sure can relate. Yesterday i had an apt. for my blood draw and for them to look at my arm/hand which is very puffy. I had been told today at 10:30 i would see my surgeon. When i arrived at 10:30 they said i had missed 2 other apt.s and they had to cancel them. I had not checked my messages so i was a Bad ****! The people at physical therapy wouldn't see me because i was late and i had to reschedule my apt.'s for next week. I felt so bad but truly forgot to check my messages and took a nap instead. I was pretty much oblivious. I guess this comes along with chemo brain but i thought they COULD HAVE been a little more understanding. oh well this too shall pass (In 3 yrs or so). oops gotta go forgot i had a meatloaf in the oven.
    God Bless
    Jackie
  • Bill.S
    Bill.S Member Posts: 177
    As a male B/C survivor I can
    As a male B/C survivor I can attest that I too had/have chemo brain.
    Can't remember stuff, walk into another room and can't remember why I'm there. Try to do laundry without any dirty clothes............and on and on.
  • mmontero38
    mmontero38 Member Posts: 1,510
    Moopy23 said:

    Informative Article
    Thanks for posting this, Kathi.

    Moopy love the wig!!!! Hugs,
    Moopy love the wig!!!! Hugs, Lili
  • phoenixrising
    phoenixrising Member Posts: 1,508
    Thanks for the article
    Thanks for the article Kathi, personally my husband has been suffering from it for years. Sometimes it's worse than others. For instance putting the banana in the garbage and the peel in the blender! Trying to determine how old he is and can't figure out how to figure it out. That one was really bad cause he's a bright guy. Knew how to put together old harleys inside and out, but sat there one day while working on his bike baffled and said "I should know this". For myself I think it's getting better but it's been almost 3 yrs. Still I forget words.........esp if I'm tired. And comprehension certainly has diminished. It's good someone has authenticated what we have been feeling perhaps now we'll be taken seriously.
    Thanks again
    love
    jan
  • mimivac
    mimivac Member Posts: 2,143
    Chemo brain
    Thanks for posting this, Kathi. I can definitely attest to chemo brain. I have a great memory for some things, but have suddenly become fuzzy when it comes to others. Sometimes it feels like I am in a fog and I stuggle to remember words or things that just happened. Forgetting to pay bills is the worst one.

    Mimi