Long-term side effects

Long-term side effects

Although most side effects will improve after treatment is finished, some people have long-term effects from cancer treatment. These are related to the type and dose of treatment given.

Be prepared

Possible long-term effects

Some cancer treatment can cause long-term changes to how your body works. These effects may not show up for months or even years after treatment has finished. Some can be permanent.

Possible long-term effects include:

  • fatigue
  • mood or emotional changes
  • heart problems
  • bone weakness
  • sexuality and fertility issues
  • menopausal symptoms
  • lymphoedema
  • pain
  • lung and breathing changes
  • hearing changes
  • cognitive problems (memory, concentration and thinking)
  • changes to the way you look, e.g. scars, hair colour change
  • changes to taste and smell
  • a second cancer.

Talk to your doctor or nurse for more information on possible long-term effects of your treatment.

Second cancers

With some types of cancer treatment there is a small risk of developing a second cancer. This is not the same as the original cancer coming back. It is a new cancer, which can start in another part of the body and in a different type of cell.

If this does happen, it is usually many years after treatment for the first cancer.

Some treatments, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy can cause second cancers. It is not very common but you should talk to your specialist about the risk of getting a second cancer. 

Managing symptoms

Managing long-term effects

Everyone has different experiences with cancer and cancer treatment. Tell your specialist or GP if you notice any changes to your body that you think could be due to your treatment. Early management of these changes may reduce any long-term effects.

It is very important to take care of yourself after cancer treatment. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will improve how you feel. It may also reduce your risk of cancer recurrence.

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

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