Fast Facts: Late Effects of Cancer Treatment
- Not all cancer survivors will experience late effects; some may appear soon after treatment, others may occur years after treatment ends.
- Late effects may be due to surgery, chemotherapy or radiation or the combination of these cancer treatments.
- In most cases, the earlier these late effects are identified, the easier they are to treat. Ask your health care team about what late effects could occur for your type of cancer and the treatment you received.
- Late effects may be both physical and psychosocial. Late effects of cancer can affect a survivor’s day-to-day life activities, body image, family and personal relationships.
In addition to talking with your health care team about what late effects you might expect for your type of cancer and treatment, it may also be helpful to talk with other cancer survivors. There are likely to be others who have been through similar experiences and sharing information may help in finding ways to manage challenges. For more information on cancer advocacy and survivorship groups in your area, visit MyHealthFinder and search under the “Cancer Care” category. Your oncology team will probably continue to see you for a period after treatment is done. Your health care will then be returned to your primary care physician for most health matters. However, many providers are not trained in the aftereffects of cancer. Contact your oncology provider or a cancer survivorship clinic near you if you begin to have problems that may be related to cancer or its treatment.
Follow-Up Care for Late Effects
Follow-up care gives doctors the chance to monitor survivors’ response to current or past treatments in order identify recurrence of the disease, if any and detect long-term or late effects. Cancer survivors should see their primary care doctors for general health and physical examinations yearly or more often, as needed. They should see their oncologists for follow-up cancer care. Regular examinations may include screening for cancer recurrence, for the development of a secondary cancer or for other late effects of treatment. The links below provide additional information on screening and follow-up care for late effects.