How Brain Fog Hurts Kids Diagnosed with Cancer

At DCG Giving, we’re focused on helping children and teenagers with cancer be cured, get healthy again, and return to their normal lives with their families, friends, and schoolmates after the scariest time in their lives. Of course, furthering pediatric cancer research performed by our partners at the Children’s Oncology Group is crucial – more clinical trials means that better treatments will become available and more kids can beat cancer and stay healthy. However, even effective and fully successful cancer treatment has side effects that can be especially difficult for kids and teens to deal with.

DCG Giving recognizes the importance of offering our empathy and support to children who have been diagnosed with cancer and their families outside of “just” medical treatment. Many member institutions of COG are dedicated to social and psychological support. One of the biggest issues related to cancer treatment that these organizations help kids deal with is brain fog – the cluster of cognitive symptoms that people of all ages can experience when being treated for cancer, but that is all the more difficult for kids, whose brains are still developing and who are still in school. Learn more about cancer treatment-related brain fog and how we help kids cope below, or click here to donate today. Your contributions will always make an incredible difference.

What is Brain Fog?

Brain fog isn’t a medical diagnosis – it’s a subjective symptom that’s common in people who are being treated for cancer. As a side effect of chemotherapy, which is one of the major causes of brain fog, it’s also referred to as “chemo brain”. Undergoing cancer treatment puts people, especially young people, at risk for this phenomenon in many ways: It can also be caused by specific medicines, recovery from surgery and anesthesia wearing off, stress, low blood counts, and changes in hormones.

A young child, holding a teddy bear, being examined by a doctor.

Brain Fog Symptoms and Cognitive Side Effects of Cancer in Children and Teens

In general, people with brain fog can find themselves with bad short-term memory recall, short attention spans, problems with organizing themselves mentally or planning, slow speech, taking longer than normal on everyday tasks, and overall feeling tired and confused. Kids and teens in particular might lose interest in mentally stimulating activities they otherwise enjoy and can experience a lot of hardship and frustration attempting to keep up with studies and schoolwork.

Tips for Families to Help Children and Teens with Brain Fog

Some of the COG members that benefit from DCG Giving’s funding are dedicated to providing psychosocial support for children and families, with programs like tutoring, recreation, and creative arts. These organizations – including Twist Out Cancer, After-School All-Stars, and the Wyoming Valley Children’s Association, are devoted to helping kids stay connected to their peers and up-to-date with schoolwork. These are essential to relieving the massive stress of cancer treatment and allowing children to transition back into their healthy lives once treatment concludes.

If someone you love is suffering from cancer treatment side effects that inhibit their thinking and memory, the good news is there are things you can do today to help alleviate this issue. Ways to help a child or teenager cope with brain fog include:

  • Reduce noise as much as possible. Allow for a quiet space for concentration and take loud conversations or music elsewhere.
  • Make sure to keep important household items in the same place all the time, put them back after use, and be patient in helping to search for something that’s needed.
  • Keep school officials updated and ask about the accommodations they can provide for a student undergoing cancer treatment.
  • Hold to a consistent schedule for waking, sleep, meals, treatment-related tasks (such as taking medication), and homework.
  • Make copies of house keys and obtain extras of other easily misplaced items.
  • Play low-stress but mentally engaging games as a form of cognitive exercise. Doing crossword puzzles together and playing chess or other board games are great ways to do this.

DCG Giving helps fund institutions across the country that are supporting kids and teens with cancer and their families in myriad ways, every single day. Click here to contribute and you can have an immediate positive impact.