Chemotherapy, Chemo Brain: Top 5 Tips for chemo brain rehab.
Have you ever blanked on someone’s name even as you are talking to him or her? Or forgotten your Physiotherapy exercises by the time you get home? Felt mentally foggy or cloudy? Well, these are common symptoms experienced by people with chemo brain or chemotherapy related cognitive dysfunction.
What is chemo-brain?Chemo Brain Image 1
For years people have talked about and even joked about the mental cloudiness they experience during and after high dose chemotherapy. The effects range from mild to severe effects, short-lived effects, to effects that persist beyond two years.
Chemo brain or chemotherapy related cognitive dysfunction, affects memory, attention, and concentration, processing speed, ability to follow instructions and make decisions.
Verbal memory and word retrieval is the most common complaint, with people forgetting words mid-sentence. This can be disconcerting for someone having a conversation, holding a meeting or when speaking publicly, especially when he/she may also be experiencing other chemotherapy side effects such as alopecia/ hair loss and or hot flushes. Ultimately these issues may cause so much stress and anxiety that people will be less inclined to go out and socialize or return to work. These decisions contribute to feelings of isolation, sadness and even depression.
The etiology of chemo-brain
It is unclear why certain patients are more affected than others and why in most cases this cognitive dysfunction resolves itself, while in others the symptoms may persist beyond two years. Some influential factors include, the type, dose and the combination of chemotherapeutic agents, the patient’s age, menopause and genetic disposition.
Top 5 Tips for Chemo Brain Rehab.
#1. Education: Knowledge is power and understanding brings you relief and helps you worry less. You should know that chemo brain is a real problem and is experienced by many. However, there are steps you can take to help yourself reduce this side effect and speed up your rehabilitation.Chemo Brain Image 2
#2, Software: Cancer rehabilitation experts recommend you subscribe to Lumosity.com, for brain exercises that are specifically designed to rehabilitate and improve your memory and brain function. This may be especially helpful if you are returning to a high functioning job.
#3. Technology: Use everyday technology cleverly e.g. You could select to use your iPhones to take photos or video of yourself learning your new physiotherapy exercises. This will help you remember your home exercise program (HEP). Alternatively, you could use your palm pilot calendar, digital diaries, tape recorders, or just a notebook and take notes. This will help your personal and professional organization and performance, for example you could record people’s names and details to review before meetings, to schedule business activities, to keep healthcare appointments and to set and achieve family tasks.
#4. Daily Aerobic exercise: Take regular daily exercise, e.g. a 35-minute moderate speed walk,
swim, dance, bike, or Pilates or Yoga practice A moderate dose of exercise means you do it and can talk at the same time (only somewhat breathless). Research has shown that moderate aerobic activity benefits you by reducing the chemotherapeutic toxicity. Exercise gently helps your body’s organs and systems process the chemotherapeutic agents. This improves your body’s tolerance for the treatment and your ability to complete the desired course. Daily aerobic activity is easiest first thing in the morning when your mind and body are well rested and fresh.
#5. Relaxation and breathing exercises: The effects of cancer related stress and anxiety can be reduced through gentle deep relaxation and breathing exercises. If you wish to learn about these benefits and how to practice these techniques read our blog post “Relaxation and Breathing Exercises”.
Send us your comments and questions and please sign up for our newsletter,
we look forward to hearing from you. Thank you!