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Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 12:00 AM

5 tips to help you fight chemobrain

Chemobrain—the brain fog that 75% of people report during cancer treatment and 35% report after treatment.

Breast cancer survivors are familiar with it. But they may not know that there are many contributing factors to this fogginess that can be controlled. Side effects from medications may interfere with cognitive function. So can many simple things you may or may not do every day.

What are the symptoms?

A downside of breast cancer treatment is a risk of developing cognitive changes to the way you think. Any woman who has had chemotherapy or hormone therapy, is a risk for developing these cognitive changes, often called ‘chemobrain’ or chemofog.  Chemobrain may cause problems with memory, attention and the speed of thinking. Symptoms may vary and can last a short or long period.

A UAB researcher shared tips with survivors in a support group meeting sponsored by Marshall Cancer Care Center. Jacqueline B. Vo, BSN, RN, is a research nurse for the UAB School of Nursing pursuing a PhD with a focus on improving the lives of cancer survivors.

To improve chemobrain, prioritize:

·      Physical activity

·      Good nutrition

·      Reducing stress level

·      Getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night

·      Exercising your brain by learning new things, reading, dancing, play an instrument, crossword puzzles and keeping a journal.

“We want to limit the amount of time you’re sitting or lying down or watching TV or other forms of sedentary entertainment,” Vo says. “Eating better also will help your cognitive function and your mood.”

She also suggests using coping strategies to help overcome forgetfulness, such as making notes, setting reminders, using a daily planner and leaving messages for yourself.

For more information, Vo suggests survivors visit Think Well is a healthy living program developed from the UAB School of Nursing and funded by Susan G. Komen North Central Alabama. The goals of Think Well are to increase knowledge on cognitive changes that may occur after cancer diagnosis.