Memory and concentration

You may have heard the term ‘chemo brain’ or ‘cognitive difficulties’ to describe some of the symptoms and experiences that can happen after treatment. These include difficulty with:

  • Thinking clearly
  • Remembering things that have happened recently
  • Maintaining concentration
  • Completing tasks

Sometimes these difficulties can be due to treatment and the medications you were given. Often, the exact cause is unknown. You may find it is just a matter of time before these symptoms diminish, but you can take a more proactive approach to help to reduce the impact of any memory difficulties.

Keep a pen and paper nearby at all times.

Try to find quiet spaces.
It is difficult to take in and recall information in a noisy and busy environment. Try taking the conversation, or material to be remembered, into a quiet location.

Consider telling others.
Cognitive difficulties after cancer treatment are not well known. Simply explaining to others that you are having a difficult time with memory can ease some of the stress it can bring.

Try to keep stress at bay.
Stress can interfere with memory and affect your concentration.

Get adequate rest and nutrition.
All round good health practices can help to keep your mind more alert and responsive.

Be kind to yourself.
Forgetfulness can be frustrating, but being hard on yourself will not help you to remember things or think more clearly. In fact, putting pressure on yourself could actually contribute to your cognitive difficulties. Try to let go and give yourself time.

Ask a specialist.
If you are still having difficulties, speak to your healthcare team.

Our thanks to Maggie’s Centre, Oxford for their help preparing this information.