comscoreMemory Loss

Memory Loss

Memory is the process of keeping and remembering information. Certain breast cancer treatments can affect your memory.

Memory is the process of keeping and remembering information. Everyone has mild memory loss from time to time. These occasional memory lapses, such as forgetting where you left your keys, are signs that your brain might be a little overworked.

Sometimes memory loss can be part of a bigger problem. You may want to ask your doctor to evaluate your memory loss if you answer yes to the following questions:

  • Does the memory loss cause difficulties in your daily living? Are you unable to do things you used to do with ease, such as balancing your checkbook or remembering how to drive to a friend’s house?

  • Do the memory lapses happen regularly?

  • Are you constantly repeating yourself in conversations or unable to recall conversations?

  • Do you forget the names or faces of family members or close friends?

  • Do you often feel confused?

  • Is the memory loss getting worse over time?

Some breast cancer treatments can affect memory, especially chemotherapy medicines. A large number of people who receive chemotherapy for cancer report problems remembering, thinking, and concentrating. This is commonly called chemo brain or chemo fog.

Radiation therapy, hormonal therapy medicines, and ovarian shutdown or removal also can cause memory and thinking problems.

There are other treatment side effects that can affect memory, including trouble sleeping and fatigue.

Memory loss can be a side effect of other medicines, such as steroids, antidepressants, sleep medicines, and pain medicines. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you’ve noticed changes in your memory since starting any medicine.

Stress can contribute to memory problems and, for some people, a breast cancer diagnosis can be stressful. Anxiety, depression, fatigue, or trouble sleeping can all affect memory.


Managing memory loss

Your healthcare team or a mental health professional can help you figure out what may be causing your memory problems.

Some people also find the following tips helpful:

  • Stretch your brain by keeping mentally active with word puzzles, reading, and any other activity that makes you think.

  • Stay as physically active as possible. Exercise has been shown to help thinking and memory issues. One study found that women who exercised before, during, and after chemotherapy were less likely to have chemo brain.

  • Keep a notepad nearby to jot down things you have to do and ideas you have.

  • Use a calendar to keep track of upcoming events and appointments.

  • Take a buddy with you to doctor appointments so they can take notes and help you remember as much information as possible.

  • Create a routine and stick to it so you have a familiar plan of action. Tell your family and friends about your routine for additional support.

— Last updated on July 26, 2022, 1:06 PM

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