Chemo Head is a side effect of cancer that I have personal experience with, as a survivor of nearly fifteen years after aggressive cancer treatment.
Without getting into my personal story too much, I will tell you that I had an aggressive form of cancer in my leg, that required aggressive treatment including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. As I have explained in another article, cancer treatment protocols vary depending upon the type of cancer a patient has. My treatment was aggressive, partly because I was young and overall healthy enough to tolerate it. The chemotherapy drug I was given was one of the harshest drugs used.
My side effects were severe. I was given anti nausea drugs, but was still nauseous. I had a serious problem with cancer fatigue that stayed with me for years. One of side effects that frightened me the most, I just recently learned had a name. The name of this disturbing side effect is Chemo Head.
Although I had excellent doctors and nurses who explained just about everything that was taking place in my body, they never told me about Chemo Head. I learned that it had a name when looking up information about cancer fatigue.
Chemo Head, otherwise known as Chemo Brain takes place as a result of the chemical changes in the brain as a result of chemotherapy treatment. the effects of chemotherapy on the brain include inability to concentrate, reduced memory and problems thinking clearly.
Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, meaning that is goes through the entire system, not just to the tumor. Chemotherapy, as a systemic treatment, affects every cell in the body. Chemotherapy is actually “chemical therapy”. The treatment involves flooding the body with as much of the chemical that kills cancer as the body can take. There are different chemicals used in the treatment of cancer, depending upon the type of cancer. The chemicals are actually poisons flooding the body, which is why people get so sick from them.
Here I will back up to say that not everyone gets severe side effects from chemotherapy, Because of advances in anti nausea drugs, some people actually fly right through cancer treatments. However, that was not my personal experience.
So how bad was Chemo Head for me? In my case, I couldn’t concentrate long enough to read a magazine aritcle, a book or watch a television program. When I was able to sleep I had dark dreams. The condition, at it’s worst, was like crawling into a deep dark hole.
Fortunately, the condition at it’s worst did not last long. When the chemotherapy was discontinued, I started to be able to watch television and even pick up a book and read. Unless you’ve been through this, it’s hard to understand what a treat this is.
The aftereffects of Chemo Head can last long after the treatment is over. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that the thinking used to be that the aftereffects of Chemo Head could last up to two years. Researchers Dr. Tim A. Ahles and associates at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH conducted a study that indicated that cognitive functions could be impaired up to ten years.
My chemo head was a very disturbing side effect for a relatively short time. Cognitive functions improved. There was a long period of time where I was pretty groggy, but honestly, that could easily have been a normal reaction to pain medication.
Fifteen years later, I can finally write about it.
To offer a bit of encouragement to people who are going through cancer treatments, or who know people who are going through cancer treatment, I would like to say this. There may be a long period of time when you think you could never possibly feel good again. I know that I did. However it is possible to feel good again and I am proof of it.
There is light at the end of the tunnel.
The information in this article is not intended as medical advice. If you have a medical condition consult a physicial.