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Cognitive Effects of Cancer Treatment: "Chemo Brain" Explained

Katrina Evens
Valerie S. Eschiti
CJON 2009, 13(6), 661-666 DOI: 10.1188/09.CJON.661-666

An estimated 11.1 million Americans are living with cancer. Many have received chemotherapy, and a portion of patients treated with chemotherapy develop cognitive difficulties, often referred to as "chemo brain". Chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment can impact all areas of a patient's life. Yet little education is given to patients and families regarding the potential side effect prior to initiation of cancer treatment. This is, in part, because nurses may struggle with understanding the scientific causes behind the cognitive disabilities. This article will describe hypothesized pathophysiology, signs and symptoms, and potential contributing factors of chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment. Potential treatment strategies, including pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions, also will be discussed.

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