Q. Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, I can't seem to keep on top of things like I used to and it seems like I'm in a fog. I've mentioned this to my doctor but I think his focus is more on my treatment and less on my concerns. Anything I can say to make him listen?

A.

After being diagnosed with cancer, many women report having trouble finding words and remembering things. Be persistent in communicating with your doctor about what you are experiencing. Here are some tips that may help you:

  • Request a time to speak with your doctor to focus on your specific concerns
  • Express how these concerns are affecting you and your quality of life
  • Be specific and give examples
  • Use statements such as, “I need your help understanding this” and “Do you have any suggestions on what I can do?”

For more tips read our publications, Communicating With Your Health Care Team and “Doctor Can We Talk?”

It’s also possible that you may be experiencing side effects from chemotherapy. This is sometimes referred to as “chemobrain,” a condition that affects your short-term memory. You may consider getting evaluated by a neuropsychologist (an expert trained in how the nervous system, especially the brain, controls mental functions such as language, memory, and perception) who can assess any cognitive changes and suggest mental exercises to improve memory and thinking. Chemobrain usually lessens over time once treatment has ended.

A few steps you can take now to improve your memory:

  • Keep a notebook or day planner where you can write down things you need to remember
  • Keep the notebook in a specific place so you can find it when you need to
  • Use Post-it notes to place reminders in your home, office or other spaces

To learn more about chemobrain, read CancerCare’s fact sheets: