What are some tips for improving my memory now that I’m finished with my chemotherapy?

Memory and concentration problems can begin soon after treatment ends, or they may not appear until much later. If a person is older, it can be hard to tell whether these changes in memory and concentration are a result of treatment or of the aging process. Either way, some feel they just can’t focus as they once did. It is especially difficult after treatment ends and they have to resume and manage daily activities or return to work. While research is starting to explore why some people develop problems with memory and concentration while others don’t, the National Cancer Institute has identified the following ways to help improve memory and concentration:

KEEP A NOTEBOOK, MEMO PAD, POCKET CALENDAR OR ELECTRONIC DEVICE WITH LISTS OF TASKS THAT NEED TO BE DONE AND THE TIME NEEDED FOR THOSE TASKS.

REMINDERS CAN BE SET ON YOUR CELLPHONE, STICKY NOTES AROUND THE HOUSE, OR IN YOUR LIST OF DAILY ACTIVITIES THAT CAN KEEP YOU INFORMED ABOUT THINGS LIKE TAKING OUT THE TRASH.

IF YOU ARE DOING A TASK THAT INVOLVES STEPS, VERBALIZE THE STEPS OUT LOUD. ALSO, SAYING SOMETHING REPEATEDLY A FEW TIMES CAN YOU HELP YOU REMEMBER IT. REPETITION HELPS YOU HOLD ON TO INFORMATION — JUST LIKE YOU LEARNED IN SCHOOL!

IF YOU HAVE A FAMILY EVENT OR WORK FUNCTION TO ATTEND, PLAN WHAT YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT OR SAY, AND GO OVER NAMES PRIOR TO THE EVENT.

STRESS CAN CAUSE MEMORY AND CONCENTRATION PROBLEMS, SO FIND WAYS TO MANAGE YOUR STRESS AND LEARN HOW TO RELAX AND CALM YOURSELF IN STRESSFUL SITUATIONS.

BE SURE TO DISCUSS YOUR MEMORY AND CONCENTRATION PROBLEMS WITH YOUR HEALTHCARE TEAM.

For more information contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge at (225) 927-2273, cbritton@cancerservices.org, or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.

INTERNET RESOURCES

Memory and Concentration Changes - NCI

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/chemo-side-effects/memory

Cognitive Problems after Chemotherapy – CancerCare

http://www.cancercare.org

This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.