Cancer survivors may experience late effects from cancer treatment, sometimes many years or even decades after completing treatment. We will help monitor for any of these issues. If you experience any of these problems, please talk to your doctor about them. Our nurse navigators will prepare a treatment summary and a survivorship care plan for you that lists potential late effects that you may experience based on the treatments you received. Some potential late effects include:
Fatigue often occurs during and after cancer treatment. If you experience fatigue, not feeling rested no matter how much sleep you get, or are always feeling tired, please talk to your doctor. Our nurse navigators can link you with free and low cost exercise programs and talk to you about diet changes that may help to help increase energy.
Memory and Learning
Often referred to as “chemobrain,” memory and learning problems can result from certain types of chemo or radiation to the head. Problems with memory and learning can make things difficult in school or at work. The Seton Cancer Survivor Center can refer you for special testing to evaluate these changes and work with your school or employer to make sure that any special needs are met.
A small percentage of survivors treated with chest radiation or certain chemotherapies have problems with heart disease. This is most likely for patients treated with higher doses, and those treated before their heart finished growing. You may need regular EKGs and echocardiograms, and we will refer you to a cardiologist if needed.
Head or neck radiation can cause the thyroid gland to stop working properly. This gland helps regulate growth, weight, and the balance of body chemicals. We will do blood tests to check for thyroid hormone levels.
The endocrine system controls hormones in your body. Changes to the endocrine system may result in obesity or other weight gain, diabetes, decreased sex drive, depression, or loss of body hair. We will monitor for any problems through special blood tests.
Radiation treatment and certain anticancer drugs can affect sexual development and reproduction. Some patients are at risk for delayed puberty, infertility (inability to have children), or early menopause. Physical exams and certain blood tests can help us tell if there are problems. We realize how important these issues are, and will discuss them at clinic visits. If there is a problem, we will arrange for you to see a specialist.
Lymphedema is most often experienced by breast cancer survivors that had lymph nodes removed during surgery or damaged by radiation during treatment. This results in swelling and pain and can cause limited arm movement. Please see our exercise guide for breast cancer survivors or talk to our nurse navigators.
Exercise video for lymphedema.
Some cancer survivors experience a tingling or burning feeling in their hands, arms, feet, or legs. This is caused by nerve damage from the cancer treatment. We can help you find ways to deal with these feelings, but it does not typically go away.
Bone loss is common among patients treated for lymphoma, leukemia, breast, or prostate cancers. We will monitor for bone loss and talk you about ways to stay as healthy as possible through diet and exercise.
Pain is often gets in the way of doing the things we enjoy. If you are experiencing pain, please talk to your doctor. Our nurse navigators can refer you to a palliative care clinic or pain management program.
Some cancer treatments and some cancers, like head or neck cancers, may cause dry mouth. This may make it difficult to swallow, talk, or sleep. It may also cause food to taste different or bland.
Removal of the bladder or prostate may cause some problems going to the bathroom or having some urine leakage. If you have any of these issues, please talk with your doctor.
Some chemotherapy drugs and radiation can increase the risk of a second (different) cancer. Some patients are genetically more at risk for second cancers. Tobacco, excessive sun exposure, and other chemicals and behaviors can also increase this risk. At the Seton Cancer Survivor Center, we will talk with you about ways to lower your risk and to detect common cancers at an early stage.