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Cognitive changes due to chemotherapy

Trubrit's picture
Trubrit
Posts: 5414
Joined: Jan 2013

*Deep sigh*

I can no longer ignore what is going on. While I am physically healthy and strong, I am suffering from distinct cognitive changes resulting, no doubt, from chemotherapy. 

While I suffered terribly from 'chemo brain' during treatment and several months afterwards, I have noticed a slight improvement, but, the fact is, my brain is not firing on all cylinders.

I have been waiting for things to improve, but they seem to be gradually declining. Now, I must admit, I have been sick with a mystery illness this week, and certainly my head is not feeling right. It feels stuffy, like it did during chemo. I am hoping as I impove this fuzziness will diminish; but, I regularly keep a video journal, audio notes and now, for my little PT job, a dash-cam for safty reasons. It has become blatantly obvious, that what comes out of my mouth is not what my head is thinking. And I don't even recognise I have said anything wrong.  I come up with random dates, I misidentify places and other, little things which I won't go into. 

Of course, I am scared to death that 1. it may be a brain tumour, or 2. Chemo induce dementia. 

I am researching. Are there foods that exacerbate the symptoms? Are there mental exercises that will 'strengthen' the brain. Is there any way to put the brakes on what is happening?

People tend to think its a bit of a joke 'She losing her mind'. It is no joke. It is terrifying.  

I will talk to my Oncologist at our next visit. I don't want a brain scan. I can't afford a brain scan. But.....

Any suggestions or help would be much appreciated. 

Tru

SandiaBuddy's picture
SandiaBuddy
Posts: 1171
Joined: Apr 2017

I am so sorry to hear of your concerns, especially since the chemo has already ended.  I do recall reading about several substances that can help with chemo side effects--I am sorry I did not take notes at the time, but it seems to me it was things like tumeric, quercetin, maybe folate.  You might want to do a search on pubmed ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ ) on this particular topic.  If I come accross any of the research, I will come back and repost.

SandiaBuddy's picture
SandiaBuddy
Posts: 1171
Joined: Apr 2017

For what it's worth: "Patients already diagnosed with CRC can also actively improve the prognosis of colorectal cancer and quality of life by changing their lifestyle. Patients commencing moderate exercise and modifying their eating habits in terms of a ‘Mediterranean’ diet can reduce cancer-specific and overall mortality by up to 40% and significantly increase their quality of life already during chemotherapy." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4945783/

Also, would a glass or two of red wine help?  It is supposed to help prevent dementia--probably by increasing blood flow.  Maybe it would help with brain fog.  Or at least make it more bearable?

 

Tunadog's picture
Tunadog
Posts: 235
Joined: Mar 2017

I figure I have lost about 10% cognitive function. 

Sometimes I can't remember stuff, say the wrong words. Can't explain myself, etc.

I was talking to a gentleman in the infusion room about Chemo brain and the wives were talking like it doesn't exist. I retired now so I'm not sweating it.

I spent most of my life as a Software Engineer where I needed to be sharp. Don't need to be as sharp now.

I'm pretty sure I have watched every T.V. Show on my cable.

Getting cancer is tough.

Best of Luck

gsmith53
Posts: 27
Joined: May 2017

I understand where you are coming from Tunadog. I am halfway through my 12 FOLFOX treatments. I definately have some "chemo brain", and like you I am a software architect. At least I don't have to write allot of code these days, but I still have to be able to communicate with my teams. It is clear to those who know me at my work place, that there is some chemo brain. But, it's a great place to work, and they are all very patient with me. I'm only 64, and my wife is 63. So, we still need healthcare insurance through my job.

My wife and I decided that while we still can, as soon as my treatments are over, as much as we can, we are going on the road in an RV. My bosses are encouraging me to do it, and are very supportive of working on the road. It's easier these days to be able to do it, as long as I have an interet connection. I work out of my house mostly already in preparation. Remodeling the house to get ready to sell. As soon as chemo is over, and the house is sold, that's it.

Agreed, getting cancer is tough. Living with the threat of recurrence is even tougher. But we must soldier on, and fight.

Good luck Tuna

Lovekitties's picture
Lovekitties
Posts: 3362
Joined: Jan 2010

Here is a partial list of things which might cause your symptoms AND can be reversed (from the Mayo Clinic web site):

 

Dementia-like conditions that can be reversed

 

Some causes of dementia or dementia-like symptoms can be reversed with treatment. They include:

 

  • Infections and immune disorders. Dementia-like symptoms can result from fever or other side effects of your body's attempt to fight off an infection. Conditions such as multiple sclerosis that result from the body's immune system attacking nerve cells also can cause dementia.
  • Metabolic problems and endocrine abnormalities. People with thyroid problems, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), too little or too much sodium or calcium, or an impaired ability to absorb vitamin B-12 can develop dementia-like symptoms or other personality changes.
  • Nutritional deficiencies. Not drinking enough liquids (dehydration); not getting enough thiamin (vitamin B-1), which is common in people with chronic alcoholism; and not getting enough vitamins B-6 and B-12 in your diet can cause dementia-like symptoms.
  • Reactions to medications. A reaction to a medication or an interaction of several medications can cause dementia-like symptoms.
  • Brain tumors. Rarely, dementia can result from damage caused by a brain tumor.
  • Anoxia. This condition, also called hypoxia, occurs when organ tissues aren't getting enough oxygen. Anoxia can occur due to severe asthma, heart attack, carbon monoxide poisoning or other causes.

 

JanJan63's picture
JanJan63
Posts: 2482
Joined: Sep 2014

I heard about chemo brain long before I ever had cancer. I've had friends that have had breast cancer and a gentleman who had another cancer I can't remember. All said they had chemo brain after and can't remember things they should be able to. Words are hard to come up with, memory lapses, things like that.

I've always had a bad memory for things like faces and names but what I have noticed is that I forget words. And it's not like when I used to forget a word. It used to be that I'd get the 'its right on the tip of my tongue' feeling. Now I know there's a word but there's a complete blank about what the word is. When I'm grasping for the word and someone else comes up with it or I finally get it several minutes later it really bugs me. I hate looking like a simpleton.

I also find that I make a lot more mistakes while typing on the computer. More typos, which I've really seen myself doing here on the forum, but often words that are just gibberish. I look back and realize that only one or two letters that are supposed to be in the word are there and the rest are just nonsense. It really bothers me when it happens because I'm completely unaware until I look back. Its kind of creepy.

After having been told that the neurologists didn't think I'd survive the blood clot and stroke without some sort of brain damage I often thought about what it would have been like if that had happened. I wondered if I'd have been aware of it and frustrated at my lack of ability to speak or communicate. Or would I be so messed up I wouldn't even realize it. So now I don;t know if y issues are from the chemo or that or both.

I should also add that some of my short term memory is gone. Most things I can remember right after they happened but some things are just gone. It's embarassing.

I may have told this on here before, I'm not sure, but this is what I read a while back. Getting older and just losing memory is going to the mall and forgetting where we parked the car. Alzheimers is going to the mall in our car and then taking the bus home because we forget we even brought it.

I hope this helps in some way.

Jan  

coloCan
Posts: 1956
Joined: Oct 2009

I never would've risen to the level I did. When there were more( many more)blank spaces than those filled in on crossword puzzles  i had solid proof to show my docs something was wrong,my vocabulary and memory were failing me (among numerous other side effects of Tx). There was little,if anything,in 2009 on chemo-brain and the first research i came across was a few years later,on women and breast cancer--one study suggesting the impact of learning you have cancer can screw with the mind even before Tx begins(no sheet!!) Like neuropathy, it seems like a long- term consequence but most importantly,it proves you're still alive. Some days are better and some not so better (neuro comes and goes,crosswords usually no prob;em,short-termmemory-esp when trying to learn something new,is adisaster,words don't come whemn needed,lose train of thought,etc)

Joan M's picture
Joan M
Posts: 411
Joined: Oct 2016

I have had problems too and always believed it was due to the chemo.  When I asked an oncologist last summer, he said it was only caused by medications given to breast cancer patients.  I do not believe that at all.  

Many doctors dismiss it as being caused by stress related to dealing with cancer.  While that may have some validity, it seems that if your stress levels are reduced, your memory would improve.  

I will be on Xeloda for the rest of my life, and there are adverse cognitive side effects listed on the long sheet you get from the pharmacy.  When I asked about it,  they said "We just have to put that on if even one person claims to have that problem while taking Xeloda, even if it isn't proven to be caused by the Xeloda."

I guess if our doctors will document these complaints from any of us having cognitive problems, then maybe they will finally admit that these medicines cause the problem.  Of course, we will probably still take them because we want to stay alive.  

PamRav's picture
PamRav
Posts: 302
Joined: Jan 2017

you are experiencing such frightening symptoms. Scary stuff please  get them checked out ASAP. Take your video thing you so the doctor can see exactly what's happening.  And you know whatever tests the doc orders you can't afford NOT to have done.  I don't have any clue what the treatment might be if it's residual affects from the chemo.  But certainly they must something to offer.   Your posts on here always cognitive and your vocabulary is broad.

Stay positive , I'm sending prayers your way. 

PAm

NewHere's picture
NewHere
Posts: 1322
Joined: Feb 2015

I also think I have some of that going on.  Some of it can be stress induced - meaning the cancer trip we are on has thown permanant stress in our life that is a fairly high level.  Sure, we look past it as much as possible and do not let us get bogged down too much, but it is still there.  And there is also the affect of the chemo.

I know (or think) I am not speaking the same as before all this.  Not that anyone else may notice, but I do not feel as articulate and feel that it takes me an inordinate amount of time between words (more so when using a "bigger" word).

As to brain exercises, there are some things that are proven to work, while there is a lot out there that does not work.  Without naming names of sites on the web, many of the brain exercise places seem to be a tad bit of snake oil, not proven.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/brain-training-doesn-t-make-you-smarter/

Scientists have already identified activities that improve cognitive functioning, and time spent on brain training is time that you could spend on these other things. One is physical exercise. In a long series of studies, University of Illinois psychologist Arthur Kramer has convincingly demonstrated that aerobic exercise improves cognitive functioning. The other activity is simply learning new things. Fluid intelligence is hard to change, but “crystallized” intelligence—a person’s knowledge and skills—is not. Learn how to play the piano or cook a new dish, and you have increased your crystallized intelligence. Of course, brain training isn’t free, either. According to one projection, people will spend $1.3 billion on brain training in 2014.

 

Other things/articles

 

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/10/the-weak-evidence-behind-brain-training-games/502559/

Math is something that I believe helped (and music is math related).  There was also one thing I found that is an exercise that does seem (maybe)  to work is Dual N Back. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N-back.  Note that there is controversy from some aspects of this also, but there seems to be some help.  Of course wiki and the rest, take with a grain of salt.  

 

Meditation has shown to help reduce stress and increase concentration (maybe by reducing stress, it helps?).  Yoga and Tai Chi (among others) have been shown to help.  Just something today was reported

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4609948/Yoga-reduces-risk-cancer-altering-genes.html

 

With various videos and training sites out there (including Dual N Back) that are very low or no cost, it may be worth giving it a whirl.  And if you ever wanted to learn an instrument, pick up an inexpensive one to try.  I know when I actually give myself some time, concentrating on things helps somewhat.  

 

But like I said, I agree.  Very often things are not 100% in focus and there is even a bit of dettachment at the same time.  Some of the times I do not feel like that include being on this board and comminicating with everyone.  

 

Hang in there Tru, you will get through this also.  

 

Feel better soon.  Having the cold and the rest does not help with this.

 

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