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  • Home » Is loss of memory a side effect of chemotherapy?

    Is loss of memory a side effect of chemotherapy?

    Q. Since my chemotherapy has begun, I feel like I have trouble remembering even the simplest things. Am I just getting older, or is this a side effect?

    A. Studies have shown that some people getting chemotherapy do have problems with memory, concentration, language skills, and spatial judgement. For some people, these changes come on fast and only last a short time. Others may have mild, long-term changes. In most cases, the changes are subtle, and others around the person with cancer may not even notice any changes at all. Still, the people who have problems are aware of the differences in their thinking. Many people do not tell their health care team about this problem until it affects their everyday life.

    Some helpful things you can do: get enough rest and sleep, give yourself time to recover after stressful events (trips to the doctor, tests, treatments), and try to organize your life by making short lists. You might want to use a daily planner. Keeping everything in one place makes it easier to find the reminders you may need. Keep track of appointments and schedules, to-do lists, important dates, phone numbers and addresses, meeting notes, and even movies you’d like to see or books you’d like to read.

    Be sure to tell your health care team about the changes you’re feeling. They may suggest you see a specialist who can work with you on ways to manage your memory or thinking problems.

    You are not stupid or crazy; you just have a side effect that you have to learn to manage. Get the help you need.


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