Meta facebook tracking pixel

If you are having memory problems and trouble focusing on tasks, finding words or managing daily activities, you are not alone. These are examples of “chemo brain,” a side effect of cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy. This fact sheet covers:

  • Symptoms of chemo brain
  • How a health care journal can help
  • Questions to ask your doctor
  • How an oncology social worker can help

Symptoms of Chemo Brain

Coping with chemo brain involves finding ways to help you remember things better and doing activities that keep your memory sharp. For tips to cope with chemo brain, read CancerCare’s fact sheet titled “Coping with Chemo Brain: Keeping Your Memory Sharp.”

Signs of chemo brain can include:

  • Forgetfulness or memory lapses
  • Difficulties concentrating or focusing on tasks
  • Trouble recalling or remembering common words or names
  • Struggling to do more than one task at a time

Start a Health Care Journal

If you experience chemo brain or any treatment side effects, a health care journal can be helpful. Having a journal or notebook will allow you to keep all of your health information in one place. If you are experiencing chemo brain, it may be helpful write down the following in your journal or notebook:

  • The time and place you first experienced any chemo brain
  • What you were doing and any symptoms you experienced
  • The frequency of your chemo brain symptoms
  • Any activity that has helped you cope with chemo brain
  • Any medications you are taking
  • Any questions you may have for your health care team

Have this journal along any time to you talk your health care team.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

If you have problems with memory and attention, speaking with your doctor is an important first step in getting the care you need. Write down your questions and concerns about any side effects in your health care journal before your next medical appointment.

In addition to bringing questions, if possible, bring someone with you to any appointment. Another person can help reduce confusion. Here are questions that may want to ask your health care team:

  • What is causing my chemo brain?
  • How long do chemo brain symptoms usually last?
  • Can you evaluate me to see if my chemo brain symptoms are related to anything that could be more easily treated, such as low blood count or other medications I am taking?
  • Should I see a neuropsychologist? If so, can you refer me to one?
  • What do you recommend I do to improve my memory?

In addition to your health care team, you may want to let friends and family know. You may be relieved talking to someone you trust and they can help you better cope with chemo brain.

The Role of Oncology Social Workers

Professional oncology social workers at CancerCare understand the complex issues that arise with a cancer diagnosis. Social workers can help you manage any emotional or practical concerns that may be causing chemo brain and help you develop ways to cope. CancerCare’s professional oncology social workers help anyone affected by cancer, free of charge. To speak with a professional oncology social worker, call 800-813-HOPE (4673).

Browse by Diagnosis

Browse by Topic

Thumbnail of the PDF version of Chemo Brain: What You Need to Know

Download a PDF(448 KB) of this publication.

Last updated Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The information presented in this publication is provided for your general information only. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultations with qualified health professionals who are aware of your specific situation. We encourage you to take information and questions back to your individual health care provider as a way of creating a dialogue and partnership about your cancer and your treatment.

Back to Top

Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

By using our website, you agree to our recently updated Privacy Policy . Here you can read more about our use of cookies which help us make continuous improvements to our website. Privacy Policy.