Memory difficulties and brain tumours
Not everyone with a brain tumour will experience memory difficulties, and for those that do, the symptoms and severity will differ. Learn more about how brain tumours can affect memory and read top tips to help cope with memory loss.
Download our factsheet about memory difficulties and brain tumours.
What is memory?
Memory is our ability to take in and store information, as well as to recall that information at a later time. Memory is one of our cognitive (thinking) functions.
There are various types or aspects of memory, but it can be split broadly into two types:
How can my brain tumour affect my memory?
There are 3 stages in remembering:
- Getting information into memory (encoding)
- Keeping the information in memory (storing)
- Getting the information back out again when you need it (retrieving or recalling).
Brain tumours could cause difficulties with one or more of these stages.
Not everyone with a brain tumour will experience memory difficulties. If you do, how you are affected will mainly depend on:
- Where your tumour is in the brain (location)
- The treatment you have.
The severity and type of memory difficulties differ from person to person, so you may not have the same problems as someone with a tumour in the same location and having the same treatment.
Effect of brain tumour location on memory
Many areas of the brain are involved in storing and recalling different types of memories. For this reason, it's not always possible to accurately predict if and how a person's memory will be affected by a brain tumour. However, two areas of the brain are particularly involved in memory – the frontal lobe and the temporal lobe. If your tumour is in these areas of the brain, it's more likely (but not definite) that your memory will be affected.
Effect of treatment
Neurosurgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy can all have an effect on the brain that may, in turn, affect memory. Again, the effects of treatment will vary from person to person.
Surgery on the brain can cause some temporary swelling, which may affect cognition in general, including your memory.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy may also affect cognition and energy levels in general. Side-effects caused by these treatments could last for weeks, sometimes even months, after treatment has ended.
What sort of memory difficulties might I experience?
Memory difficulties are sometimes referred to as amnesia. The types of amnesia you may experience are:
- Loss of memories formed before you had a brain tumour or treatment (retrograde amnesia).
- Difficulty remembering memories formed after you had a brain tumour or treatment (anterograde amnesia).
Tips to cope with memory difficulties
Identifying exactly what kind of memory difficulties you have, can help you and your health team work out ways to reduce the effect these problems have on your everyday life.
Don't be too hard on yourself. Not being able to remember things like you used to can be frustrating, stressful, embarrassing, and more. People with memory difficulties have said it helps if you can be upfront and open about it (tell people you have difficulties) and also, where possible, see the funny side of it.
Depending on what difficulty you have and how badly it affects you, you may find some of the following suggestions useful. They have been suggested by people with brain tumours and healthcare professionals:
Page last reviewed: 08/2018
Next review date: 08/2021