Chemo brain


Numerous tests, such as blood tests, brain scans, or other medical examinations, may be suggested to rule out other potential causes of memory problems. Nevertheless, there is no specific test available for diagnosing chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment.

In the majority of cases, individuals who have undergone cancer treatment and experience these symptoms often score within the normal range on memory assessments.


The treatment for chemo brain typically encompasses a range of approaches, including stress-relief techniques, cognitive rehabilitation, attention-enhancing strategies, medications, addressing the root cause, and various other interventions.

Since everyone experiences chemo brain symptoms and severity differently, coping strategies are tailored to one’s needs. Generally, the goal of the treatment is symptom management.

  • Managing factors that contribute to memory issues: Cancer and its treatment can give rise to additional conditions like anemia, depression, sleep disturbances, and early menopause. Effectively addressing the contributing factors that can exacerbate memory problems may facilitate better management of symptoms.
  • Cognitive rehabilitation: also known as cognitive remediation, refers to the process of learning new techniques and strategies to take in and retain unfamiliar information.
    Adapting and managing memory changes may involve:

    • Brain training: To aid in repairing disrupted circuits associated with chemo brain, exercises focusing on memory and thinking functions may be suggested.
    • Monitoring and evaluating factors affecting memory issues: For example, if an individual tends to be more easily distracted when hungry or fatigued, they could plan demanding tasks that necessitate heightened concentration during the times of day when they feel most alert. Systematically monitoring one’s memory issues may uncover effective coping strategies.
    • Employing coping strategies: Learning communication strategies that facilitate the retention and retrieval of conversations may be recommended. Techniques like notetaking or creating outlines while reading can also enhance concentration.
    • Implementing stress management strategies: Stressful situations can contribute to memory problems, and experiencing memory issues can be stressful in return. Learning relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation or mindfulness practices can aid in recognizing stress and provide effective coping mechanisms which can be beneficial in stressful situations.
  • Medications: Although there is no medication specifically approved for chemo brain, healthcare providers might prescribe drugs that are approved for other conditions to alleviate its symptoms. These medications may include memantine, which can potentially assist with memory improvement, especially during brain radiation therapy, similar to its use in Alzheimer’s disease. Other options encompass methylphenidate, typically prescribed for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), donepezil, commonly used in Alzheimer’s disease, and modafinil, employed in certain sleep disorders.