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  • Writer's pictureAnnie Sicard

A cancer survivor's view on chemobrain: what it is, symptoms and tips - by Annie Sicard

A cancer survivor and patient advocate who helps cancer patients with after cancer care such as chemobrain issues

Annie Sicard is a breast cancer survivor who became a patient advocate. She works closely with cancer patients to support them with after cancer care, such as how to improve cognitive disorders such as chemobrain, chemo fog and brain fog.

What are cognitive disorders?

Cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, oral chemotherapy, and hormonal therapy have been an important part of extending survival in patients diagnosed with breast cancer. 20 to 50% of patients treated for breast cancer express a cognitive complaint. Oncology treatments can lead to cognitive disorders such as brain fog (chemobrain) in some patients.

There are a multitude of causes of brain fog. They would be due to the cancer itself, to the impact of the announcement of the disease, to anxiety and fatigue, but also to the neurotoxic action of the chemotherapy, to oxidative stress (which attacks the cells), and to hormonal or immune disorders.

The cognitive difficulties encountered by patients have a negative impact on their quality of life, memory, attention, and concentration. These disorders can have an impact when returning to work. In elderly patients, cognitive disorders have repercussions on their autonomy, such as compliance with oral chemotherapy treatments at home.

Signs and symptoms

  • Confusion

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Memory loss

  • Difficulty in performing routine tasks

  • Search for words

Risk Factors

  • Cancer itself

  • Radiation therapy of the brain

  • High doses of chemotherapy or radiotherapy

  • Hormone therapy

  • Tiredness

  • Lack of sleep

  • Stress, anxiety

  • Nutritional deficiencies

How to reduce the symptoms?

  • Regular physical activity decreases fatigue and improves mood and alertness

  • Brain exercise: memory games, learning new languages

  • Cognitive rehabilitation workshops

  • Relaxation, mindfulness, sophrology, yoga

  • Make “to do” lists

  • Get enough rest and sleep

  • Focus on one thing at a time

Will the symptoms of chemobrain ever go away?

Symptoms improve within 9 to 12 months after the end of chemotherapy. A smaller proportion (about 10-20%) may experience long-term effects.


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