Memory Changes

The phrase “chemo brain” refers to a temporary change in memory, mental processing or concentration that sometimes occurs with cancer treatment.

Some people try to hide these changes out of embarrassment. However, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. These changes may be related to stress, medicine, the cancer and/or treatment, or other health problems. Tell the doctor or nurse about any changes so they can help determine the cause. 


  • Do things that need the most concentration at the time of day you feel best.
  • Simplify. Clear clutter; break big tasks into manageable steps; renegotiate work hours or academic load; reduce extracurricular stresses.
  • Avoid trying to do several tasks at the same time.
  • Decrease workload.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Avoid distractions. Reduce or eliminate background television and radio noise.
  • Be patient.
  • Set appropriate expectations.
  • Establish and stick to a schedule.
  • Keep lists and a detailed calendar; use reminder notes.
  • Use a pill box or calendar to keep track of medications.
  • Keep your brain active by working on short word or number puzzles, or reading magazine articles versus a novel.


  • Ask for help. Friends or family can shop for groceries or take care of kids.
  • Keep a diary.
  • Consider support groups.
  • Ask someone to join you at your appointments.


  • Allow plenty of time for sleep.
  • Ask for extra help when it’s needed. Nurses and social workers can help with your appointments and medications.
  • Cut down on nicotine and caffeine to reduce anxiety.
  • Ask someone to stay with you if you are feeling confused. Do not stay home alone.