What is Chemo Brain and How Long Does it Last

What is chemo brain?

Chemo brain may be a kind of mental fog that affects a patient’s overall cognitive function. Symptoms are subtle and sometimes go unnoticed by loved ones. Chemo brain may be a common term employed by cancer survivors to explain thinking and memory problems which will occur during and after cancer treatment.

Chemo brain is also known as chemo fog, cognitive disability caused by chemotherapy, or cognitive disorder.

Though chemo brain may be a widely used term, the causes of concentration and memory problems aren’t well-understood. It’s likely that there are multiple causes.

Chemo brain symptoms include:

  • Mild forgetfulness
  • Had trouble identifying words (looking for a phrase on the tip of one’s tongue)
  • Difficulty remember dates, names, phone numbers, etc.
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Taking longer than usual to end routine tasks


There are many possible factors which may contribute to the signs and symptoms of memory problems in cancer survivors.

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Cancer-related causes could include:


  • A cancer diagnosis are often quite stressful and it’d cause anxiety and depression, which may contribute to thinking and memory problems
  • Chemicals produced by certain cancers may have an impact on memory.
  • Cancers that begin within the brain or spread to the brain might cause changes in thinking

Cancer treatments

  • Bone marrow transplant
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
  • Targeted drug therapy

Complications of cancer treatment

    • Anemia
    • Fatigue
    • Infection
    • Some hormonal alterations, such as menopause (caused by cancer treatment)
    • Sleep problems

  • Pain due to cancer treatments

Other causes

  • Inherited susceptibility to chemo brain
  • Medications for other cancer-related signs and symptoms, like pain medications
  • Other medical conditions, like diabetes, thyroid problems, depression, anxiety and nutritional deficiency

How long does ‘chemo brain’ last?

Chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment has long been a complaint among cancer survivors. This effect has been studied in some depth, but, for the primary time, researchers ask how long these deficits might last.

Chemotherapy is understood to interfere with cognitive abilities, except for how long?

If cancer therapies advance, survival rates rise, as does the number of cancer survivors. This growing population of individuals who have come through cancer and lived to inform the story often report cognitive deficits.

Chemo brain, or chemo fog, because it has been dubbed, was first reported by carcinoma survivors.

It impairs a person’s memory, focus, and multitasking abilities, among other things.

Some women with chemo brain say their ability to follow conversations is compromised, and they get tired and confused more quickly.

A review that checked out the prevalence of chemo brain estimated that it affects 17-50 percent of female carcinoma survivors.

Despite the fact that research has identified chemo brain as a real side effect of chemotherapy, there are still many unanswered questions. One such question asks how long chemo brain is probably going to last.

Measuring the length of chemo brain

A study, conducted at the University of Illinois and published within the journal Behavioural Brain Research, began to research the consequences of chemo brain over a extended period of your time . For this purpose, the team designed a mouse model which will help researchers of the longer term investigate this problem and, potentially, rectify it.

Catarina Rendeiro, the study’s lead author, collaborated with a group of researchers from around the university, including psychology professor Justin Rhodes and nutrition professor William Helferich.

“After chemotherapy, quality of life is critical, and chemo brain is critical in these survivors.”

Prof. William Helferich.

Previous research has shown that the severe physical toll of chemotherapy is responsible for the chemo brain’s short-term cognitive deficits. “The question is, do they still have cognitive

impairments after they fully recover from the acute attack of chemotherapy, several months or years later?” says Prof. Rhodes.

The researchers used a female mouse model that was created to closely resemble postmenopausal women. They looked at how chemotherapy affected learning and memory to see if there were any long-term consequences of chemo brain. Additionally, they charted the formation of latest neurons within the hippocampus – a neighborhood of the brain important in memory, among other roles.

The mice were put through their paces employing a Morris Water Maze. This type of trial has been widely utilized in behavioral neuroscience to review memory and spatial learning since the first 1980s. It involves placing a mouse during a circular pool and timing it while they look for a submerged platform.

Mice subjected to chemotherapy were found to require substantially longer to find out the task.

When the brains of the chemotherapy-treated mice were examined, they were found to possess 26 percent fewer surviving hippocampal neurons created during the course of treatment, and generated 14 percent fewer hippocampal neurons within the 3 months directly after chemotherapy.

In human terms, three months is equivalent to about ten years. If these results are often extrapolated to humans, they demonstrate that the consequences of chemotherapy do indeed cause long-term deficits.



If you’re during a mental fog, ask your medical provider. They will ask about your symptoms.They will also want to understand when your problems started and the way they affect your lifestyle .

Your doctor can inquire as to what causes your symptoms to worsen and improve. Do you, for instance , feel better within the morning than at night? Does it help when you’re active, once you eat, or after you’ve rested?

Bring an inventory of all the medicines you’re taking , albeit they are not for cancer.


If chemo brain is interfering with your daily routine, your doctor can recommend seeing a counselor or psychologist.  There are other things which will help too, including:

  • Some stimulants and antidepressants
  • Exercise — even 5 minutes a day
  • Plenty of sleep and rest
  • Exercising your brain with puzzles, playing an instrument, or learning a replacement hobb


What is Chemo Brain and How Long Does it Last

What is Chemo Brain and How Long Does it Last

What is Chemo Brain and How Long Does it Last

Mayo Clinic

What is Chemo Brain and How Long Does it Last