Cancer Brain Fog

By Pamela Joyce Shapiro, PhD, Coping with Cancer

Cancer survivors face a number of physical, mental, and psychosocial challenges that diminish quality of life and alter one’s sense of self. Brain changes that affect a person’s cognitive identity, the thinking, capable, intelligent self  can be especially troubling.

What is cancer brain fog?

Following a cancer diagnosis, many survivors experience a sense of cognitive loss the feeling that one’s mental abilities are slower and less acute than before as if the brain is in a fog. Problems with memory and concentration are the most common cognitive complaints, and some people report difficulties following directions, finding the right words, or performing simple calculations. Complex tasks, like planning or organizing activities, can be especially challenging for survivors with cognitive symptoms, and multitasking may seem impossible.

Although cancer-related cognitive changes are sometimes called chemo brain orchemo fog, these terms are misleading. Symptoms of cognitive loss often occur before cancer treatment begins and can affect people who are treated with surgery, radiation, and hormonal therapy, as well as those who undergo a course of chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

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