If you’ve been newly diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, you already know that you’ll have to make some major adjustments. While there is no cure for this disease, there are different treatments that can make life as functional and comfortable as possible. Chemotherapy is one of the regimens most commonly used to help patients.
However, this treatment can cause side effects. Among them? Chemo brain.
Fog and forgetfulness while fighting disease
According to the National Cancer Institute, it’s not uncommon for patients who are fighting malignant diseases to experience confusion, depression or forgetfulness – all of which can be possible side effects of chemotherapy.
Medical experts have a hard time agreeing on how common chemo brain is among patients taking these medications. Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) point out that estimates range from 25 to 82 percent.
But one thing is certain: Chemo brain is real.
In order to understand why cancer patients have these neurological symptoms, UCLA researchers conducted an experiment in which they imaged the brains of three groups of women: breast cancer patients who had chemotherapy, those treated with surgery and healthy women who never had breast cancer or chemotherapy.
The cortical images taken during this experiment showed that blood flow and metabolism were different in the brains of patients who had chemotherapy.
Later, when the test subjects were taking memory tests, brain scans showed that the chemotherapy patients’ brains had to work harder, compared to those of the healthy women.
There are ways to deal with chemo brain
From the Mayo Clinic, we’ve learned about several ways that people with mesothelioma can deal with chemo brain:
- If you have trouble concentrating, try eliminating noise and other distractions from your environment.
- Before taking on a complex task, try to plan ahead, remember to eat right and get plenty of sleep – all these things will boost your focus.
- Use tools, such as daily planners or calendars, to stay organized.
- If you’re tackling a long and labor-intensive task, take plenty of breaks to let your mind rest
- Keep your brain sharp with the help of crossword puzzles and other games.
- Remember to exercise. Physical activity can help alleviate fatigue, stress and depression.