Chemo brain - when will it end?

I finished chemo (FEC + paclitaxel) at the end of October and had chemo brain throughout.Three months on and I still find that I have difficulty remembering dates and details,conversations I have had, I can be talking and forget a word or lose my train of thought. This gets worse as the day goes on and I become more tired. I am really concerned as I am lecturer and will soon be returning to work and at the moment don’t have much confidence that I will be able to lecture.
What have been your experiences of chemo brain and when did it go?

I have just finished 6 x FEC and would also like to know, I forget the simplest words, causes giggles in the family but I really hope my normal brain comes back soon!

I finished 6 FEC in July and didn’t really notice my chemo brain during treatment, however, I returned to work early November and it became all to apparent then. My bcn told me her best friend had chemo for bc 10 years and still has memory problems


I did sit at my desk the other day and realised I could not remember colleagues name. Eventually it did come to me. However, routine doing work tasks seems to be ok. Brain seems to remember how to do these things and go on auto pilot. My brain also seems to know how to do the housework, cooking, ironing…
It is actually a relief to get absorbed into work and stop thinking about everything else. I find the structure of work less tiring than trying to keep myself occupied at home.
I would recommend a phased return if possible and the first day is definitely the most daunting.
Best wishes to you all.

Hi H,

I finished 3 Tax with Herceptin then 3 FEC in mid February last year. My chemo brain started after 1st FEC. It slowly improved after chemo finished but still rears its ugly head from time to time, especially if I am tired or have been overdoing it. I only finished Herceptin last month so that may also be a factor. I am a retired teacher and cannot imagine doing some supply at the moment but hope that will improve.
The week after Christmas I watched a film on TV with my son and I remembered most of it from the book I had read about 3 years earlier but can’t remember what I watched on TV the day before although that is improving. Everyone is different but I would expect it will still take some months after final treatment.

Good luck on your return to work.

Take care, Liz.

I finished chemo a month ago and was really worried about chemobrain as I had it quite severely. However, I now feel as though I’m pretty much back to normal. Not sure if this has happened as just part of the natural recovery process or because I have been trying to rehabilitate my mind. One issue I had was not being able to read a book due to lack of concentration. Following my last cycle I deliberately picked an easy read I wouldn’t usually go for (Clare Balding’s new book about her childhood - it’s very simple - the average 8 year old could read it). I then moved onto a fairly straightforward Bertrand Russell book called the Conquest of Happiness - it’s a sort of early self-help book but anyone who knows Russell will realise he has a rather unusual turn of phrase, plus there is the anachronistic element to deal with. Now I’m back to being able to consider scientific papers and the like. It possibly takes me rather longer to formulate an argument but I’m not sure that’s necessarily a bad thing. I’ve combined reading with gentle exercise every day. This does seem to help clear the fog, and it’s been shown there are links between physical fitness and cognition (the brain is an organ after all).
Obviously everyone will be different in terms of the degree of side effects they face and their recovery times. I’ve not started tamoxifen yet. It is possible this might add its own fog although I’m hoping not since the treatment is such a lengthy one.
Wishing everyone clearer thinking and a speedy mental recovery.

Nicola x

Everyone is different but I finished chemo 3 years ago and I still feel a bit vague and forgetful and realise that my mental acuity is definitely not what it used to be and this has affected my confidence. I have learned to deal with it and adjust my horizons accordingly - I am still the same person after all. It may or may not be down to chemo as I am on letrozole so maybe that has an effect too.

Anyway, good luck with the readjustment back into work. I would echo what’s been said above about a phased return and exercising as much as you can, both definitely helped me.

I was reading this thread yesterday then ended up having strange dreams about forgetting things due to chemo brain and having to explain myself to all sorts of strange people - I hope that is not a sign of things to come!

I have been addicted to scrabble on my ipad during the chemo weeks so hope that has helped keep my brain exercised!

Interesting comments that I can relate to. I too have exercised throughout chemo and RT.I did struggle to read for a while but that is starting to come back. I have managed to write some reports and proposals and these seem ok. It’s the unpredictable and spoken situations that I seem to have more problems with. I have already started Tamoxifen, currently in my third month, so maybe I don’t have chemo brain but Tam brain. Anyone else on Tamoxifen and have these type of difficulties?

HJU63 it could well be Tam brain if this study is anything to go by. Tamoxifen and cognitive problems: It's not "all in your head." - Breast Cancer - MedHelp
The results were very surprising. After 1 year of therapy, breast cancer patients who have received exemestane had neurocognitive performance equal to that of healthy women. However, breast cancer patients who were given tamoxifen had significantly inferior verbal memory, executive mental functioning, and reduced information processing.

This thread has relly helped me. I have had 3 TAX treatments and have my fourth next Friday. I have been struggling a little with filling my time and read magazines and newspapers. I have a chick lit book on the go, Angels by Marion Keyes.
When I had my masectomy in Oct 12 I drafted 20 chapters of a book and said to all my friends I was going to use the time off work to write a book! I completely underestimated the fog that is always present in my head.
I also try to walk every day no matter how short the distance. January weather and chemo treatments, two this month, is a big hurdle but friends and family keep checking in.
Courage and resilience to everyone
let itgo

Thanks Keyfeatures for the link to the article.
I will see what else I can find out as I am not eager to have this level of cognitive incapacity for the next 5 years but unless there is an alternative to Tam I am going to be stuck with it (My cancer was highly ER+). I guess I will have to develop some strategies to cope and change some of my approaches. Just when I thought I might be able to get back to some level of normality …

Hi everyone, so glad to read about other people having concentration problems/memory loss, thought it was just me. I had a mastectomy Dec '11 and axillary clearance Jan '12. I had 3 FEC + 3 TAX + 15 rads. I used to have a really good memory but now feel i forget a lot of things. I have also been experiencing pain in my legs and feet plus some kind of numbness in the soles of my feet and has now moved to my hand. My Dr thinks its neuropathy so have had amitriptyline for it, which is good cause it helps me sleep, at last i can sleep!! Have had blood tests having another tomorrow to check levels of magnesium, Im sure this started when I was on TAX looking back, but its definately got worse. Finished chemo end of May so just wondering why this has developed last month all of a sudden, wondering if it is neuropathy or something else?

Donna x

I’m 5 years out from treatment, chemo etc, but I still have chemo brain. Before treatment I had a high powered job, juggling many balls at a time. Now, I’ve been pensioned off (lucky me) and there is no way I could do my previous work.
OK, I’m well. Doing great. But my brain isn’t what it was. My memory has gone. I can’t multi-task anymore etc etc. I find it so…fustrating.
I’ve told the onc that I think this is the area that is overlooked. I feel OK but just can’t do what I want to do. It’s annoying.

I’m 5 years out from treatment, chemo etc, but I still have chemo brain. Before treatment I had a high powered job, juggling many balls at a time. Now, I’ve been pensioned off (lucky me) and there is no way I could do my previous work.
OK, I’m well. Doing great. But my brain isn’t what it was. My memory has gone. I can’t multi-task anymore etc etc. I find it so…fustrating.
I’ve told the onc that I think this is the area that is overlooked. I feel OK but just can’t do what I want to do. It’s annoying.

my treatment finished in December 08.
I have lost my job (pensioned off) due to all the problems i have been left with, not just chemo brain.
I have cognative problems like i often feel like - the lights are on but no-bodys home. I can sit and listen to someone talk and then it’s like i feel thick, like i just don’t understand whats being said. I forget things. I have even put a pizza in the oven and later walked about my house wondering where the smell of burning is coming from, my daughter came in to the house and i asked her where the burning was coming from, she went into the kitchen and opened the oven door. I could’nt remember putting the pizza in the oven. I put eggs on to boil and only remembered them when they exploded because the water had run dry.
memory and concentration are bad, my hubby has to remind me about medication.
i do try and do puzzle games and some days i manage and others i’m clueless
it’s really upsetting and i’m not the person i used to be

I did stumble over an article - google - ‘does chemo kill brain cells or does chemo damage the brain’ …interesting!

hi vodka,
your not alone, except iv just had my last chemo a week ago, so still got some chemo haze, but even when i havent i too get worried how forgetfull i am, cant even remember words that i want to say, i wasnt great before chemo, my nick name in work was scats, christ knows what they will call me when i go back, my husband often thinks im just egnoring him, i herd what he said but thought i answered him and i did in my head but not out loud. i hope things get better, have you asked oncolagist? gona put it on my list when i start radio in couple of weeks…

Hi all
This is a really interesting thread, and I agree more information about c.b. would be good. I had mx, Anc, chemo, rads in 2011’, been on tamoxifen for 18 months. Went back to work on phased return sept 2011 (between chemo and rads) and found chemo brain and fatigue a real issue, especially as my job involves lots of multi-tasking, dealing with different teams across the county etc. It is a lot better now, but has a tendency to creep back when I get tired. I also find concentration ok first thing in the day but can be rubbish by evening, so have to plan more round that (used to be a real night- owl but no more!) Used to read a lot, now can do work stuff but have much less patience reading fiction unless i think its really good.
I just wanted to say hopefully it will improve, be kind to yourself and accept its a gradual process (easier said than done I know). I also recommend the odd mental puzzle workout (sudoku, scrabble, solitaire etc) as well as exercise - have found them all good de-stressers. One interesting thing is that friends and colleagues don’t seem to notice it as much as I do - haven’t worked out if they are being polite or we should put some of it down to age?