Surviving Cancer

Frequently Asked Questions

12. Why can't I remember things the way I did before I had cancer?

Some survivors notice that they can't focus on the job at hand or they have trouble remembering details like names and dates. Sometimes it takes them longer to finish tasks, because their thinking and processing seems to be slower. For older adults, it can be hard to tell whether changes in memory and concentration are because they are getting older or are the result of treatment.

These changes, sometimes called "chemobrain," can begin during cancer treatment or they can occur much later. The exact causes are unknown, but people who have had chemotherapy or who have had radiation to the head seem to be more likely to experience these problems.

The best thing you can do about memory and concentration problems is to talk with your doctor. Discuss whether medications you are taking, depression, problems sleeping, or anxiety could be contributing to your problems. If these problems last for a long time, your doctor may suggest that you see a specialist who can help.