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Monday, January 17, 2011 DJ, Community Member, asks

Q: Help with "Chemo Brain" or Post-chemotherapy cognitive impairment

I need to see a neurophysiologist referred to me by my oncologist due to "chemo brain" or Post-chemotherapy cognitive impairment.

I am in need of cognitive rehab. I am very forgetful, can not finish sentences, and my short term memory is not what it used to be. I am 10 years cancer free, but my condition seems to get worse as the years go by.

I have tried to get my insurance to cover cognitive rehab, but I got denied because the injury to my brain was not caused by an accident. Isn't the brain damage caused by chemo real??? When will the medical community realize this as a real situation that people need to get help with? Any information that could help me get the medical help I need would be greatly appreciated.

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Answers (3)
PJ Hamel, Health Guide
1/17/11 3:21pm

Hi - Chemobrain is tough - and it might be you have menopausal issues kicking in, too. Both lack of estrogen and chemo can do a number on your cognitive abilities.


This article on chemobrain is over 3 years old, but it'll be good fodder for when you approach your insurance company. Best of luck to you - PJH

DJ, Community Member
1/17/11 3:38pm

Thanks so much for your information. I was only 38 when I was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer and treated. I did get my cycle back after chemo, and still have it. I am hoping this does not get even worse when I go through menopause!!Yell

PJ Hamel, Health Guide
1/17/11 3:49pm

Maybe you're just starting menopause, and that's what's causing it? Might be worth getting tested to see if you are indeed beginning menopause... PJH

Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
1/18/11 5:59am

DJ, chemobrain is very real.  From what I have read about it, however, it doesn't usually get worse after chemo.  Most women get better, and some stay about the same.  I'm almost thirteen years post chemo.  I noticed that my number memory was most affected, and it took almost five years before it started to improve enough that I could dial a phone number without checking every two or three digits.  One thing that helped me was playing solitaire and free cell on the computer.  It was really hard at first, but something about having to sequence colors and numbers helped retrain my brain.  Doing any kind of puzzles like crossword puzzles and sudoku helps.  The rehab people will also suggest that you do different kinds of brain teasers.

Since your cognitive problems are getting worse this long after chemo, consider other possible sources of the problem.  Some medications can affect mental function.  One medication I tried to help neuropathy set me back so much cognitively that I had to stop it.

I wish I had some suggestions for how to get insurance to pay for rehab.  You might pay for a consult out of your own pocket to talk to the rehab people and get suggestions for things you can do on your own.  If you have not yet filed an appeal, protesting the insurance company's decision, try that.  Often insurance companies will reverse decisions once they have a written appeal along with doctor's recommendations.  If your oncologist thinks you need this, then the insurance company should be more cooperative.

DJ, Community Member
1/18/11 8:20am

Hi Phyllis,

Thanks so much for your help. I am taking a different route today, seeing my PCP to see if he can help. He was able to get me an MRI before, when my breast surgeon's office couldn't, go figure. I will then appeal it, and hopefully, get some help. I don't sleep as well as I did before chemo either. I know this hurts the situation. I am not sure if having a child also contributes, I have a 5 year old. I had her two years after chemo, with help of course. I didn't have children before diagnosis, so I searched for help, seeing many different oncologists. My persistence paid off that time, so I will be as diligent with my search for help with this problem.

Thanks again Phyllis Laughing 

DF, Community Member
1/18/11 4:27pm



FYI down here (in Australia) our company supplies online cognitive training software and we have had one of our customers (recovering from cancer and suffering chemo-fog) get the full cost of the program paid for by their health insurer under their ""income protection - rehabilitation policy".


I hope this information helps you.



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By DJ, Community Member— Last Modified: 01/18/11, First Published: 01/17/11