Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on
September 23, 2022
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on:

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Do you feel like you can’t focus on anything? Are you having trouble thinking clearly and remembering things?

If so, you might be experiencing cancer brain fog, also known as chemo brain. This is a common side effect of cancer treatment, and it can be very frustrating.

In this article, we will discuss what causes brain fog, how to cope with it, and some tips for maintaining your brain health during treatment.

You will also learn more about the different types of cancer, their causes, and their symptoms. We hope that this information will help you through this difficult time.

Let’s get started.

What is cancer, exactly?

Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. These cells can form tumors, and they can spread to other parts of the body through the blood or lymph system.

Cancer can develop in almost any organ or tissue, and it can spread to other parts of the body.

There are many different types of cancer, and the symptoms vary depending on the type. Treatment also varies but may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or targeted therapy.

Cancer is a very serious disease, and it is important to get treatment as soon as possible. The earlier the cancer is caught, the better the chances are for a successful treatment.

Differences Between Cancer Cells and Normal Cells

Cancer cells are atypical in their growth, appearance, and function when compared to regular cells.

Although cancer is prevalent, there are several events that a normal cell must go through in order to become a cancerous cell. These events are:

  • A cell acquires changes in its DNA
  • The cell no longer responds to signals telling it when to stop growing or divide
  • The cell starts to grow and divide uncontrollably
  • The cell resistant to death
  • The cell can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body

Cancer cells differ from normal cells in several ways. For example, cancer cells:

  • Grow and divide more rapidly than normal cells
  • Do not die when they are supposed to
  • Do not respond to signals telling them to stop growing or dividing
  • Keep growing even when there are no more nutrients available
  • Can invade other tissues and spread to other parts of the body

Different Types of Cancer

There are many different types of cancer, and they are classified into several categories, such as the following:

Carcinoma

Carcinoma is a type of cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues lining or covering internal organs.

There are different subtypes of carcinoma:

  • adenocarcinoma
  • basal cell carcinoma
  • squamous cell carcinoma,
  • and transitional cell carcinoma.

Adenocarcinoma occurs in the glandular cells in the body, such as those found within internal organs and glands that make and release fluids in the body, such as mucus and digestive juices.

While basal cell carcinoma is the most frequent type of skin cancer and the most frequently occurring form of all cancers, according to research, however, they take a long time to develop and are generally curable if caught and treated early.

Squamous cell carcinoma, on the other hand, is also a common form of skin cancer that develops in the outer and middle layers of the skin, which is not usually fatal but can be aggressive.  

And transitional cell carcinoma occurs in the urinary system, which includes the bladder and kidneys as well as the tubes that connect them.

Sarcoma

Sarcoma is a type of cancer that develops in the connective tissues of the body, such as muscles, bones, cartilage, fat, and blood vessels.

There are different subtypes of sarcoma:

  • osteosarcoma
  • chondrosarcoma
  • fibrosarcoma
  • liposarcoma
  • leiomyosarcoma, and
  • angiosarcoma.

An osteosarcoma is a form of bone cancer that begins in the cells that make bones. It is most often found in long bones, particularly the legs but occasionally the arms. It can originate from any bone and occurs in exceedingly rare cases outside of the bone.

Chondrosarcoma is a rare form of tumor that generally originates in the bones, although it may sometimes develop in the soft tissue surrounding them. It is most prevalent in the pelvis, hip, and shoulder bones. However, in rare cases, it can also occur in the bones of the spine.

A fibrosarcoma is a cancer that forms at the end of bones in the arm or legs and subsequently spreads to surrounding soft tissues.

Liposarcoma is cancer that starts in fat cells in the body, most often in the muscles of the limbs or abdomen.

Leukemia

Leukemia is a type of cancer that begins in the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow. The bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made.

There are different subtypes of leukemia:

  • acute lymphocytic leukemia
  • chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • acute myeloid leukemia
  • chronic myeloid leukemia.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children, but it can also occur in adults. It develops when the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell).

While chronic lymphocytic leukemia is the most common type of leukemia in adults and develops when the bone marrow makes too many abnormal lymphocytes.

On the other hand, acute myeloid leukemia begins in the bone marrow, but unless therapy is started soon after diagnosis, it generally spreads to the blood. It can travel to other regions of the body, including the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, central nervous system, and testes.

In chronic myeloid leukemia, an early or immature version of myeloid cells experiences a genetic change. It is a slow-growing type of leukemia that can transition into fast-growing acute leukemia that is difficult to cure.

Lymphoma

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in cells of the lymph system, which is part of the body’s immune system.

There are different subtypes of lymphoma:

  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma, previously known as Hodgkin’s disease, is the more common of the two subtypes and represents about 15% of all lymphomas. It develops when a particular type of white blood cell, called a Reed-Sternberg cell, begins to grow uncontrollably.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is the more general term for a type of cancer that starts in a lymphocyte, which is a type of white blood cell. It represents about 85% of all lymphomas. There are many different subtypes of NHL, which can be classified according to the cells involved and how quickly they grow.

Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that begins in plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cell. Plasma cells are made in the bone marrow and help fight infection by producing antibodies.

In multiple myeloma, cancerous plasma cells grow uncontrollably in the bone marrow and crowd out healthy blood cells. This can lead to a decrease in the production of red blood cells, which can cause fatigue and anemia.

In addition, cancerous plasma cells can produce abnormal antibodies that can damage organs such as the kidney.

Multiple myeloma is a relatively rare type of cancer, accounting for about one percent of all cancers. It is most commonly diagnosed in people over the age of 65.

Melanoma

Melanoma is a type of cancer that begins in melanocytes, which are the cells that produce the pigment melanin. Melanin is what gives skin its color.

Melanoma can develop on any part of the body, but it is most commonly found on the arms, legs, or trunk in men and on the legs, chest, or head and neck in women.

People with fair skin are at a higher risk for melanoma, but it can also occur in people with dark skin. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and can spread to other parts of the body if not caught early.

If you notice any changes in your skin, such as a new mole or a change in an existing mole, you should see a doctor right away. Early detection is key to treating melanoma.

There are different subtypes of melanoma:

  • superficial spreading melanoma
  • nodular melanoma
  • acral lentiginous melanoma
  • metastatic melanoma.

Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common type of melanoma and accounts for about 70% of all cases. It typically develops as a flat lesion with irregular borders that may be discolored.

Nodular melanoma is a less common type of melanoma that represents about 15% of all cases. It typically appears as a raised lesion with a uniform color.

Acral lentiginous melanoma is the least common type of melanoma, accounting for about five percent of all cases. It typically develops on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet and may appear as a dark streak under the nail.

Metastatic melanoma is the most serious type of melanoma and occurs when cancer has spread to other parts of the body. It is important to catch melanoma early before it has a chance to metastasize.

Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors

A brain tumor is a mass or growth of abnormal cells in the brain. Brain tumors can be either cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign).

Cancerous brain tumors can spread to other parts of the brain and are usually more difficult to treat. Noncancerous brain tumors generally grow slower and are less likely to spread.

Brain tumors can occur in people of any age, but they are more common in children and older adults. The most common type of brain tumor in adults is meningioma, which is a noncancerous tumor that develops in the membranes that surround the brain.

Other types of brain tumors include:

  • glioma
  • pituitary tumor
  • acoustic neuroma
  • medulloblastoma.

Symptoms of a brain tumor depend on the location of the tumor. For example, a tumor in the frontal lobe may cause problems with speech and movement, while a tumor in the cerebellum may cause balance and coordination problems.

Other Types of Tumors

There are many other types of tumors that can occur in the body. Two of the most common types include:

Neuroendocrine Tumors

Neuroendocrine tumors are a type of tumor that arises from neuroendocrine cells. These cells are found in various tissues throughout the body, such as the pancreas, lung, and gastrointestinal tract.

Neuroendocrine tumors can be either cancerous or noncancerous. Noncancerous neuroendocrine tumors are usually slow-growing and not likely to spread.

Carcinoid Tumors

Carcinoid tumors are a type of neuroendocrine tumor that arises from the cells of the gastrointestinal tract. Carcinoid tumors can be either cancerous or noncancerous.

Noncancerous carcinoid tumors are usually slow-growing and not likely to spread. However, cancerous carcinoid tumors can grow quickly and spread to other parts of the body.

Symptoms of a carcinoid tumor depend on the location of the tumor. For example, a tumor in the lung may cause wheezing and coughing, while a tumor in the gastrointestinal tract may cause abdominal pain and diarrhea.

If you have any symptoms that may be caused by a tumor, it is essential to see a doctor so that the cause can be determined. Early detection and treatment of tumors are important for the best possible outcome.

What is Cancer Brain Fog?

Cancer brain fog, also known as chemo brain, is a common side effect of cancer treatment.

Brain fog can cause problems with memory, concentration, and multitasking. It is often described as a feeling of mental “fog” or “cloudiness.” People may feel like they are in a daze or that their thoughts are jumbled.

Chemo brain can occur during or after cancer treatment. It is most common during chemotherapy but can also occur with other treatments, such as radiation therapy and immunotherapy.

Cancer brain fog is a temporary side effect of cancer treatment. It is not a sign of early dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

How long does chemo brain last?

Chemo brain fog is a temporary side effect of cancer treatment. It usually improves within a few months after treatment ends.

However, some people may experience long-term effects from cancer treatment, such as problems with memory and concentration. These effects can last for years or even be permanent.

If you are experiencing long-term effects from cancer treatment, talk to your doctor about ways to manage them.

What can I do to cope with chemo brain?

There are several things you can do to help cope with chemo brain, such as the following:

  • Get plenty of quality sleep and rest.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Take breaks during the day and pace yourself.
  • Use a planner or organizer to help keep track of things.
  • Simplify your schedule and delegate tasks.
  • Join a support group for people with cancer.

If you are having trouble coping with chemo brain, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. They can help you find ways to manage your symptoms.

In Conclusion

Cancer brain fog is a common side effect of cancer treatment. It can cause problems with memory, concentration, and multitasking.

Chemo brain is a temporary side effect of cancer treatment. It usually improves within a few months after treatment ends. However, some people may experience long-term effects from cancer treatment.

There are several things you can do to help cope with chemo brain, such as getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet.

If you are having trouble coping with chemo brain, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. They can help you find ways to manage your symptoms.

Learn more about improving your overall brain function by checking out these helpful resources in our blog.

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