Chemo brain describes changes in memory, concentration and the ability to think clearly and put thought into action. These changes can sometimes happen during and/or after cancer treatment. It’s also known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
Chemo brain 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 or chemo-fog.
Although it is the most popular description, the term chemo brain is a little misleading. Research shows that changes in memory and concentration can happen in people with cancer who have never had chemotherapy. Your doctor may call these problems mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or cognitive dysfunction. Cognitive refers to thinking or the way we process information. Impairment or dysfunction means that something isn’t working properly.
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. Chemo brain can be very frustrating as it can have 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.