What Are Late Effects of Cancer Treatment?

Reviewed on 1/27/2021

Bone loss, brain changes, hormonal changes and other troubling symptoms may all possibly result from late effects of cancer or cancer treatment, even after the cancer appears to be in remission.
Bone loss, brain changes, hormonal changes and other troubling symptoms may all possibly result from late effects of cancer or cancer treatment, even after the cancer appears to be in remission.

Even after people have been declared free of cancer, there may be lingering effects from the cancer itself and cancer treatments received. Some of these late effects can develop months to years after treatment ends, and it can take time for the body to recover from these late side effects.

What Are Symptoms of Late Effects of Cancer Treatment?

Symptoms of late effects of cancer treatment can affect many parts of the body and may include: 

What Causes Symptoms of Late Effects of Cancer Treatment?

Causes of late effects of cancer treatment include: 

How Are Late Effects of Cancer Treatment Managed?

After cancer treatment has ended, patients are usually advised to go for regular follow-up visits to their doctor to check for any of these late effects that can develop months to years after treatment ends. 

Management of bone loss from late effects of cancer treatment includes: 

Management of brain changes from late effects of cancer treatment includes: 

  • Physical, occupational, or speech therapy
  • Medication or surgery to help with the symptoms

Management of endocrine system changes from late effects of cancer treatment includes: 

  • Early menopause treatment 
  • Estrogen replacement therapy
  • Progestin 
  • Antidepressants
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Clonidine
  • Stress reduction exercises (relaxation, breathing exercises, hypnosis)
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes made of cotton
  • Use fans and open windows to keep air moving
  • Treatment for thyroid problems
  • Thyroid hormone replacement therapy 

Management of eye problems from late effects of cancer treatment includes: 

Management of hearing loss from late effects of cancer treatment includes: 

  • Evaluation from an audiologist (specialist in hearing disorders)

Management of heart problems from late effects of cancer treatment includes: 

  • A heart-healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in salt
  • Monitor fluid intake 
  • Lose weight if you're overweight or obese
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don’t smoke
  • Don’t use illegal drugs
  • Get adequate rest
  • Take medications as prescribed by your doctor

Management of joint changes from late effects of cancer treatment includes: 

  • Physical therapy exercises to decrease pain, increase strength, and improve movement
  • Knee or hip replacement surgery if needed

Management of lung problems from late effects of cancer treatment includes: 

  • Oxygen therapy
  • Lose weight if you're overweight or obese
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don’t smoke
  • Don’t use illegal drugs
  • Take medications as prescribed by your doctor
  • If you take steroids, make sure you eat a healthy diet because steroids can interfere with the way the body uses certain nutrients such as calcium, potassium, sodium, protein, and vitamins C and D

Management of lymphedema from late effects of cancer treatment includes: 

  • Use lotion to moisturize and sunscreen to protect your skin
  • Exercise regularly
  • See a certified lymphedema therapist for a special type of therapeutic massage called manual lymph drainage
  • Wear compression garments or bandages
  • Use compression devices (special pumps that apply pressure periodically) 
  • Laser therapy

Management of mouth changes from late effects of cancer treatment includes: 

  • See your dentist regularly, at least every 1 to 2 months for at least 6 months after radiation treatment ends
  • Exercise your jaw
  • Stimulate saliva by drinking 8 to 10 cups of liquid per day, sucking on sugarless candy, or chewing gum 
  • Practice good dental hygiene
    • Floss and use a mouthwash with fluoride every day
    • Brush your teeth after meals and before you go to bed
    • Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol

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Reviewed on 1/27/2021
References
https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/coping/survivorship/late-effects