Home Cancer Expert Q&A Hub Coping With Treatments & Side Effects

Chemo brain: symptoms and coping explained - in plain English

KarinSiegerKarinSieger Posts: 98 Emotional Wellbeing Advisor

Read the article or watch the video

Dear all,

When I developed chemo brain I did not know what it was, what to do and how to describe it to others.

If you can relate to that, then you may like my brief description below as well as a Youtube video I have recorded. You can watch it HERE

Remember: Chemo brain is one of many possible side effects of cancer treatment. It can feel different for different people, last for a short or longer time. Not everyone will get it.

Why Chemo Brain?

During cancer treatment and often afterwards we cannot function the way we used to – often on all levels: physical, mental and emotional.

Why is that? Because we are affected by the cancer itself, the cancer treatments and other medication we may require, overall changes in our wellbeing and the tremendous stress, anxiety and emotional trauma of the situation.

Chemo brain is one of those consequences and side effects. And it is not necessarily only related to chemotherapy, but to a combination of all of the above.

The degree to chemo brain can impact us varies from person to person. Indeed, it can outlast cancer treatment.

Chemo Brain Symptoms

With chemo brain we may experience a number of symptoms that reflect a reduced mental ability:

loss of concentration, fatigue, confusion, not being able to multi-task, not being able to cope with noise or conversations or media, sleep disruption, finding it difficult to go out and more.

If your brain, head or mind, whatever you want to call it, was a processor, then during chemo brain it cannot process as much or at the same speed as before.

We may be left feeling frightened and isolated. It is another loss of normality, predictability and our identity. More uncertainty and new circumstances to deal with.

Explaining Chemo Brain To Others

It can be difficult to explain to others what we are going through. I like to use the example of a computer. If our brain was a computer used to running 6 apps and multi-tasking for example on Facebook, Twitter, watching TV and doing WhatsApp at any given time, with chemo brain our brain may be able to use one app only, and even then only for a short period of time. It will also take a lot longer to re-charge.

Coping with Chemo Brain

In order to cope and look after ourselves, we may need to scale down our activities, commitments and responsibilities, including the small things, which we like and will miss. We may need to reach out for help and delegate. All things, which may be hard and not straight forward.

I have recorded a video about it, where I share some of my own experiences with chemo brain and coping strategies.

I hope you might like it and find it of use.

Watch it on YouTube HERE

If you have any questions on how to cope with chemo brain, then feel free to ask.

Best wishes.


Karin Sieger
Psychotherapist | Cancer Counsellor  | Reg. MBACP (Accred)

Sign In or Register to comment.