How Fertility Might Be Affected
For women: Talk to your cancer care team about how radiation might affect your fertility . Its best to do this before starting treatment so you are aware of possible risks to your fertility.
Depending on the radiation dose, women getting radiation therapy in the pelvic area sometimes stop having menstrual periods and have other symptoms of menopause. Report these symptoms to your cancer care and ask them how to relieve these side effects.Sometimes menstrual periods will return when radiation therapy is over, but sometimes they do not.
See Fertility and Women With Cancer to learn more.
For men: Radiation therapy to an area that includes the testicles can reduce both the number of sperm and their ability to function. If you want to father a child in the future and are concerned about reduced fertility, talk to your cancer care team before starting treatment. One option may be to bank your sperm ahead of time.
See Fertility and Men With Cancer to learn more.
How Long Can Chemo Side Effects Last
There is no set timeline on side effects from chemotherapy. Chemotherapy will affect each person differently.
Side effects may appear during therapy and can last long after therapy is over. In some cases, long-term chemotherapy side effects may not occur until months or years after treatment.
Some chemotherapy complications may be permanent, while others may subside with time. Doctors may recommend treatments to help manage complications and discuss the risk of permanent complications.
Why I Wont Get Over Cancers Long
Cordelia Galgut, PhD, is a British registered counseling psychologist. She lives and works in private practice in London, England. She has written 3 books on the psychological impact of cancer, the first 2 about breast cancer and the third about living with the long-term effects of all cancers. She is passionate about highlighting the mismatch between what people think having cancer is like and what the actual reality is. You can follow her on .
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How To Lower Your Risk
You can do a number of things in addition to the precautions your healthcare provider takes to reduce your risk of long term complications related to radiation therapy.
- Don’t smoke, as smoking increases the risk of lung cancer after chest radiation.
- Talk to your practitioner about any new respiratory symptoms that may suggest radiation pneumonitis.
- Ask about clinical trials designed to reduce the risk of late effects of radiation.
- If you will be having chest radiation, ask if respiratory gating is available.
- Ask your healthcare provider about physical therapy if your movements are restricted. Physical therapy can’t rid your body of permanent scarring but can often improve flexibility and mobility.
What Are The Long
3 min read
Chemotherapy plays an important role in most cancer patients treatment regimens because its very effective at killing fast-growing cancer cells throughout the body. Unfortunately, chemotherapy also kills fast-growing healthy cells. As a result, many cancer patients experience both short- and long-term side effects of chemotherapy.
Most people are familiar with the short-term side effects of chemo, which often include:
- skin changes, such as dryness, flushing, and darkening
- bitter and metallic changes to the sense of taste
- loss of appetite leading to weight loss
- Mouth sores and/or dry mouth
Some patients also experience long-term side effects of chemo. Here are some of the longer-lasting side effects that survivors may experience immediately after chemo or that may become apparent months or years after chemotherapy ends.
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Late Side Effects Of Chemotherapy
Most chemotherapy side effects are temporary and disappear once your treatment is over. For some people chemotherapy can cause long term changes in the body months or years after treatment.
Many people feel more tired than usual for a long time after chemotherapy treatment. This is most likely to happen after a lot of treatment, or very intensive treatment. For example, after high dose chemotherapy or if you are having a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
After intensive treatment, you are likely to have a lower resistance to infection for quite a long time. This will gradually get back to normal, but can take some months.
In some cases chemotherapy can cause infertility.
What Are Common Side Effects Of Chemo And Radiation
Chemo and radiation cause similar side effects. Chemo is a general term for a wide variety of medicines used to treat cancer. Chemo’s side effects depend on the type of drug used, the dosage, and a person’s overall health. These effects are more likely to affect the whole body.
Radiation’s side effects tend to affect the area being treated. But they do still depend on the dose of radiation given, the location on the body, and whether the radiation was internal or external.
Here are some of the side effects associated with these cancer treatments, and how to manage them:
Tiredness is the most common side effect of both chemotherapy and radiation. Even the most active teens are likely to find themselves exhausted and perhaps even a little “foggy-headed” during treatment and possibly for a while afterward. This is normal. Scale back on activities and rest as much as possible. When treatment is over, your energy should return.
Some chemo drugs cause headaches, muscle pains, stomach pains, or even temporary nerve damage that can result in burning, numbness, or tingling in the hands and feet. If this happens, your doctor can prescribe medicines that can help. Never use over-the-counter or herbal medicines without your doctor’s OK, though, as these can interact with the chemo drugs.
Mouth, Gum, and Throat Sores
Kidney and Bladder Problems
Blood Clotting Problems
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Tips To Improve Cognitive Function
Although no studies show the tips below improve cognitive function, they may help some people with memory problems .
Tips to improve cognitive function
Adapted from National Cancer Institute materials .
Long Term Side Effects Of Radiotherapy
Depending on the area of the body you have treated, you might have any of these long term side effects after radiotherapy:
- your skin might look darker than it was before in the treated area as if it is suntanned
- your skin in the treatment area will always be slightly more sensitive to the sun
- your skin might feel different to touch
- your hair might grow back a different colour or texture in the treatment area
- you might have permanent hair loss within the treated area
- you might develop red spidery marks on your skin caused by small broken blood vessels
- drainage channels to the arms or legs can become partly blocked resulting in swelling called lymphoedema
- you might be unable to become pregnant or father a child if your ovaries or testicles were in the radiotherapy field
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Infertility After Radiotherapy To The Pelvis
If you have radiotherapy to your groin or pelvis you may become infertile.
It can be extremely distressing to find that the treatment you need means you will not be able to have children. It can seem very unfair to have to cope with this as well as with your cancer.
Even for people who had not yet thought about having children, losing fertility can be very difficult to come to terms with. It can affect the way you feel about yourself. It will take time to come to terms with this change in your life. It is important to give yourself time to adjust and feel sad. Talking to someone close can help.
You may want to talk to someone other than your partner, family or friends. Some people find it helpful to talk to a therapist or counsellor.
Increased Risk Of Infection
White blood cells can be lowered as a result of treatment. WBCs called neutrophils help fight infections. When neutrophils are low, this is called neutropenia and results in an increased risk of serious infection. Kids with cancer, especially those with neutropenia, have compromised immune systems and are not able to fight off bacteria and germs. A seasonal cold or virus that may not cause many symptoms in a healthy person can result in severe illness in a child receiving chemotherapy. Any fever can be a sign of serious infection and should be brought to the doctors attention immediately.
Some other signs of infection include:
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Coping With Hair Loss
Hair loss can be upsetting. Talk to your care team if you’re finding it difficult to cope with losing your hair.
They understand how distressing it can be and can support you and discuss your options with you.
For example, you may decide you want to wear a wig. Synthetic wigs are available free of charge on the NHS for some people, but you’ll usually have to pay for a wig made from real hair.
Other options include headwear, such as a headscarf.
Read more about advice about cancer and hair loss.
The Impact Of Breast Cancer Treatment On Your Long
The late effects associated with breast cancer treatments. Antonio Wolff, M.D., medical oncologist at the Johns Hopkins Sydney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, encourages a relationship with a primary care doctor who is knowledgeable about these effects on breast cancer survivors and their long-term health care.
These long-term and late side effects may include:
- Pain and numbness
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Difference Between Chemotherapy And Radiation
While chemotherapy and radiation are both treatments used to treat cancer, they differ in the way they work. Some types of cancer need only one of these types of treatment, while other types of cancer may need both.
Chemo targets and kill fast-growing cells. These medicines are not specific to one part of the body and work to prevent cancer cells from spreading throughout the body. Since chemo targets cells all over the body, it can cause side effects outside of where the cancer is located. Radiation is designed to target the specific area where cancerous cells are located, hoping to reduce any negative effects on healthy cells. Radiation damages the DNA of the cancer cells, causing them to die. While healthy cells can be affected, they will usually repair any damage and heal after treatment. Radiation therapy can lead to side effects in the area being treated.
Take Hormone Therapies As Prescribed:
If you have been prescribed endocrine therapy its very important to take it exactly as prescribed. Research has shown that many women dont take their medication every day, either because they forget or because of the side effects. Endocrine therapy reduces the chance of breast cancer recurrence and when not taken as prescribed, the drugs are less effective.
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Pain In Your Back Passage
Some people may have long term discomfort or pain in their back passage. Tell your doctor if you are struggling with these symptoms. They can suggest treatments that can bring relief.
Annals of Oncology, 2021. Volume 32, Issue 9, Pages 1087-1100
Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA RosenbergWolters Kluwer, 2019
Managing The Challenges Of Hormone Therapies
Hormone therapy for early breast cancer affects people differently. Some people experience more side effects than others and its not something you can predict before treatment. Many women find that the side effects are often worse at the start of treatment, and can settle down after weeks or months, but some symptoms persist for the duration of treatment.
Hormones occur naturally in the body and control the growth and activity of cells. We know that the female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, can help some types of breast cancer to grow. Hormone therapy works by reducing the amount of oestrogen in the body or blocking its effects. You can have side effects from hormone therapies because they lower your levels of oestrogen or stop your body from being able to use it.
The side effects you experience will depend on the type of hormone treatment you are on.
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Side Effects Of Cancer Treatment
Cancer treatments may have many side effects. A side effect occurs when treatment damages healthy cells. Side effects can be different for each person, and for different medicines and kinds of treatment.
If you think youre experiencing any side effects, talk to your medical team. They may be able to help you manage them in a variety of ways.
Long Term Effects On Tissue
Radiotherapy makes tissues less stretchy. Doctors call this radiation fibrosis. How this affects you will vary depending on which part of your body was treated. Fibrosis may cause any of the following:
- your bladder could become less stretchy and hold less urine after treatment to your abdomen, so you need to pass urine more often
- your bowel habit may change after treatment to your pelvis
- your breast might be a slightly different shape, feel firmer or harder after breast radiotherapy
- your arm may swell after treatment to your shoulder
- your leg may swell after treatment to your groin
- you may have an increase in breathlessness due to your lungs being less stretchy, after treatment to the lungs or chest
- narrowing of the food pipe making it difficult to swallow, after treatment to your neck or chest
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If Youre Getting Radiation Therapy To The Breast
If you have radiation to the breast, it can affect your heart or lungs as well causing other side effects.
Short-term side effects
Radiation to the breast can cause:
- Skin irritation, dryness, and color changes
- Breast soreness
- Breast swelling from fluid build-up
To avoid irritating the skin around the breasts, try to go without wearing a bra. If this isnt possible, wear a soft cotton bra without underwires.
If your shoulders feel stiff, ask your cancer care team about exercises to keep your shoulder moving freely.
Breast soreness, color changes, and fluid build-up will most likely go away a month or 2 after you finish radiation therapy. If fluid build-up continues to be a problem, ask your cancer care team what steps you can take. See Lymphedema for more information.
Long-term changes to the breast
Radiation therapy may cause long-term changes in the breast. Your skin may be slightly darker, and pores may be larger and more noticeable. The skin may be more or less sensitive and feel thicker and firmer than it was before treatment. Sometimes the size of your breast changes it may become larger because of fluid build-up or smaller because of scar tissue. These side effects may last long after treatment.
After about a year, you shouldnt have any new changes. If you do see changes in breast size, shape, appearance, or texture after this time, tell your cancer care team about them right away.
Less common side effects in nearby areas
Side effects of brachytherapy
Late Effects Of Childhood Cancer Treatment On Different Areas Of The Body
Just as the treatment of childhood cancer requires a very specialized approach, so does aftercare and watching for late effects. Late effects can involve more than one part of the body and can range from mild to severe.
Below are some of the more common possible late effects of cancer treatment. This is by no means a complete list, as other late effects can occur as well. If your child is being treated for cancer or if you were treated as a child, its important to speak with the health care team to learn more about the possible late effects based on your specific situation.
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What Can You Do To Lower Your Risk Of Long
Until we know more about long-term survivorship issues following chemotherapy for adults, there are things you can do:
- Ask your oncologist about any late effects that you may expect from the particular chemotherapy drugs you were given. Find out when you will need to have the recommended screening tests .
- Keep a record of your chemotherapy regimen with you in case you see a healthcare provider who is unfamiliar with your medical history.
- If you smoke, quit.
- Make regular appointments with your dentist and eye doctor.
- Engage in regular physical activity.
- Limit your intake of alcohol.
- Let your healthcare provider know if you experience any new symptoms or worsening of current symptoms you have.
For childhood, adolescent, and young adult cancer survivors, long-term follow-up guidelines have been developed to address the long-term side effects and other survivorship issues.
- American Society of Clinical Oncology. Cancer.Net. Late Effects.
Feeling And Being Sick
Many people having chemotherapy will have periods where they feel sick or are sick .
Your care team can give you anti-sickness medicine to reduce or prevent this.
This is available as:
Tell your care team if your medicine does not help, or it causes too many side effects. There may be a different one that works better for you.
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