People with cancer may experience problems with mental tasks related to their attention span, thinking or memory. These mental changes are collectively called “cognitive problems”, and can occur at any time during or after cancer treatment. Some people notice very small changes, such as experiencing a little more difficulty remembering things, while others have greater memory or concentration problems that can impact their daily lives.
Causes of Cognitive Problems
The exact cause of cognitive problems is not always known, and may be due to a combination of factors, such as:
What you need to look out for
Some examples of cognitive problems are:
How it can be treated
For conditions that can be treated (e.g. infection, electrolyte imbalances), cognitive problems should go away after the condition is treated. Cognitive problems related to cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy may improve or go away but unfortunately can also be long term. Your healthcare team may treat them by:
What you can do
While cognitive problems related to cancer and its treatment may not be preventable, the following tips may help you cope better:
Plan your day
Exercise your body and mind
Get help to remember things
Seek help from others
When to call your cancer care team
It is important to identify the causes of cognitive problems because many can be treated quickly and effectively. Please inform your doctor or nurse as soon as you notice any cognitive problems as mentioned above, or
if your symptoms worsen.
If you have any questions regarding the above, please call the Cancer Helpline at
+65 6225 5655 or approach your doctor or nurse for further details.
The above contents are made available as part of TEMASEK FOUNDATION-ACCESS (Accessible Cancer Care to Enable Support for Survivors) PROGRAMME, a holistic care programme to support cancer patients during their care and recovery journey.
The contents have been approved by the Cancer Education Information Service, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), for people with cancer and their families and caregivers. However, this information serves only as a guide and should not be used as a substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment or advice. For specific medical conditions, please seek expert medical advice from your healthcare team.
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