Memory is your mind's ability to keep and remember information. Everyone has mild memory loss from time to time. You go to another room to get something, only you forget what you needed when you get there. Maybe you can't find your car keys one day and your glasses the next. These occasional memory lapses are normal signs that your brain is a little overworked.
But memory loss also can be part of a bigger problem that's more serious than just misplaced car keys. Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer “yes” to them, ask your doctor to evaluate your memory loss.
- Does the memory loss cause difficulties in your daily living? If you're unable to do things that you used to do with ease, such as balancing your checkbook or remembering how to drive to a friend’s house, consider contacting your doctor.
- Do the memory lapses occur on a frequent basis?
- Are you constantly repeating yourself in conversations or unable to recall conversations?
- Are you forgetting names or faces of people you should know, like family or close friends?
- Do you often feel confused?
- Is the memory loss getting worse over time?
Some types of breast cancer treatment can affect your memory:
- chemotherapy (this condition is sometimes called "chemo brain" or "chemo fog")
- radiation therapy
- hormonal therapy:
- Arimidex (chemical name: anastrozole)
- Aromasin (chemical name: exemestane)
- Femara (chemical name: letrozole)
- Evista (chemical name: raloxifene)
- Fareston (chemical name: toremifene)
- Faslodex (chemical name: fulvestrant)
- ovarian shutdown or removal
Memory loss also can be a side effect of other medicines, such as steroids, anti-depressants, sleeping pills, and pain medications. Talk to your doctor if you think a medication may be contributing to your memory loss.
Managing memory loss
If your memory loss is a side effect of breast cancer treatment, try the following tips to help stimulate your memory:
- Exercise your brain by keeping mentally active with word puzzles, reading, and any other activity that makes you think.
- Keep a note pad nearby to jot down things you have to do and ideas you have.
- Use a calendar to keep track of upcoming events and appointments.
- Take a buddy with you to doctor appointments. Another set of ears can help you remember as much information as possible.
- Build a routine and stick to it so you have a familiar plan of action to do things in a step-by-step manner. Tell your family and friends about your routine for additional support.
- Admit you’re forgetful if you can’t remember someone’s name; there’s no need to be embarrassed.
Breastcancer.org's mission is to help women and their loved ones make sense of the complex medical and personal information about breast health and breast cancer, so they can make the best decisions for their lives. Medical information on the Breastcancer.org web site and in our printed materials is reviewed by members of our Professional Advisory Board, which includes over 60 practicing medical professionals from around the world who are leaders in their fields. We are a nonprofit organization supported by individuals, foundations, and corporations. Find more about us here.