‘Chemo brain’ course to be extended to England and Wales after Scottish success

A course to help people with “chemo brain” is being rolled out across the UK by a cancer support charity after its success in Scotland.

The condition, officially known as Cancer Related Cognitive Change (CRCC), is experienced by some who have undergone chemotherapy and can cause memory and attention problems.

It is also known to affect executive function, such as planning and organising, and can slow down how quickly people process information.

The course, Memory and Concentration Changes after Cancer Treatment (MCCCT), will be rolled out by cancer charity Maggie’s across England and Wales after being deemed successful at the charity’s eight Scottish centres.

It was developed by psychologists in NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde in partnership with Macmillan, Maggie’s, NHS Scotland and NHS Education for Scotland as part of the Transforming Care After Treatment programme in 2016/17.

The course was proven to be effective by Andrea Joyce, a trainee health psychologist at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Maggie’s lead psychologist Lesley Howells said: “Chemo brain – which can impact people who have never had chemo but had other cancer treatments – can be really debilitating.

“It can mean even simple everyday tasks such as reading a book can become difficult.

“We have seen how powerful these courses can be in helping people overcome these issues and are delighted to be rolling this course out across the UK to help as many people as possible living with memory and brain function issues caused by cancer treatment.”

Ms Joyce said: “In a nutshell, everyone I spoke to found the group helpful.

“They found that the knowledge provided and group format, where they could share with others experiencing similar things, addressed feelings of isolation post-treatment.

“They also highlighted that CRCC impacted their sense of identity, particularly in the workplace, as some people could not return to their previous (sometimes high-level) role.

“The Cognitive Rehabilitation Interventions (CRIs) mitigated this as it gave them a sense of empowerment. Finally, things like coping strategies helped them to develop a cognitive and physical balance and accept that things have changed.”

Dellasie, 31, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019, said chemo brain still affects her years later and she often forgets things.

She said: “In the last year there have been a few incidents where I have left the oven on and came back to find my house smelling of smoke.

“Sometimes when I’ve been asked a question, a few seconds later I’ve forgotten what it is. I wasn’t like this before and it’s frustrating.

“I sometimes wish I could have my old self back, but I realise that probably won’t happen. I think this course would be very helpful.”