Changes in Memory and Concentration

Changes in memory, thinking, and concentration are common during cancer treatment (sometimes called "chemo brain"). Many patients describe being forgetful or having a hard time focusing on a task or finding the right word in a conversation. These changes are usually temporary and will get better after treatment. These changes may vary due to stress, pain, medications, and fatigue. Establishing routines is a good strategy to help manage these changes.

Call the clinic or hospital if any of these symptoms occur:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty reading more than a paragraph at a time
  • Disorientation

What patients can do:

  • Ask people to repeat things if necessary.
  • Be understanding with yourself and know that these temporary changes are to be expected.
  • Keep a list of questions for the doctor and write the answers down.
  • Keep things in the same place to easily find them. For example, always keep your keys and wallet in the same place.
  • Record important conversations or have someone with you to help take notes.
  • Set an alarm for regular reminders to take medications.
  • Write down important information and keep it in an obvious place such as the refrigerator or bathroom mirror.
  • Talk with your health care provider about ways to manage cognitive-related symptoms.