The word ‘cognitive’ refers to thinking or the way we process information. Impairment or dysfunction means that something isn’t working properly.
Mild cognitive impairment is a term used to describe changes in memory, concentration, and the ability to think clearly and put thought into action. Some people notice these kinds of changes happening during and after cancer treatment.
Originally, these problems were first noticed by women who had treatment for breast cancer. They reported changes in memory and concentration, which they linked to their chemotherapy treatment, and called it ‘chemo-brain’. However, the term ‘chemo-brain’ is probably misleading as research has shown that changes in memory and concentration can also happen in people who have had cancer but who have never had chemotherapy.
At the moment it’s not clear which treatments may cause these problems, or whether they may be caused by the cancer itself or by emotions such as anxiety and depression. So the term that’s now usually used to describe these problems is mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or cognitive dysfunction.
MCI can be very frustrating as it can have quite a big impact on your life. Its effects are usually temporary, but it can interfere with your normal activities. It may delay some people from going back to work, school or to social events.