Introduction: The Hallmarks of Chemo Brain

Have you heard of the term, "cognitive domains?" That's how mental health experts explain which areas of the brain do what. People who have gone through chemotherapy often take a hit in some of these domains.  Look at the categories below. Do any describe what you may be going through?

   1. EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING (You have problems making decisions, planning ahead, multitasking, and more.)

   2. INFORMATION PROCESSING SPEED (Your brain still works but moves oh so s-l-o-w-l-y)

   3. LANGUAGE (Issues with word retrieval and information recall)

   4. CONCENTRATION and MEMORY (If you don't attend to it, you can't remember it)

 If you're struggling with any of these issues, then it may help for you to know you're not alone.

In researching and co-authoring "Your Brain After Chemo: A Practical Guide to Lifting the Fog and Getting Back Your Focus" (with Dr. Dan Silverman at UCLA), I interviewed many, many survivors who shared their stories (I also went through chemo and experienced some of the same issues until the fog cleared - perhaps that's why).  Many described how changes in their thinking abilities after treatment had affected their competence at work and home.  Marriages had suffered.  Socially, some had withdrawn, embarrassed others would notice they weren't the sharp person they used to be.

Oncologists don't always disclose to patients that cognitive impairment is a potential side effect of chemotherapy.  So hopefully my blogposts will help fill in the knowledge gap.

If you believe your thinking abilities have declined, ask your doctor to refer you to a neuropsychologist, a specialist who can evaluate how you process information.

You will find more detailed explanations about these cognitive domains in our book.  There we have an entire chapter devoted to how neuropsychologists measure forgetfulness and other problems with thinking and mood.