In the realm of cancer treatment, remarkable strides have been made in recent years, leading to increased survival rates and enhanced quality of life. As survivors celebrate their victory over this formidable disease, it is crucial to acknowledge and address the potential late and long-term side effects of cancer that may emerge. However, you can pave the way to a fulfilling and thriving future with the proper knowledge and proactive approach.
What are the Long-term and Late Effects of Cancer Treatment?
Cancer treatment’s late or long-term complications manifest 10, 20, or even five years after a patient is diagnosed. Some of the main ones include:
Cardiovascular Complications – Cancer treatments such as chemo and radiation therapy may have long-term effects on your cardiovascular system. These treatments can increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and heart failure.
Cognitive Changes – Cancer survivors may experience cognitive changes, commonly known as “chemo brain” or “cancer-related cognitive impairment.” These changes can include difficulties with memory, attention, and problem-solving.
Emotional and Psychological Impact – Dealing with cancer and its treatments can affect your emotional well-being. Anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common among cancer survivors.
Fatigue – Fatigue is one of the most prevalent long-term effects of cancer treatment. It is mainly caused by your body’s recovery from the treatment. It can also be a result of chronic pain or infections.
Hormonal Imbalances – Certain cancer treatments, such as hormonal therapy or radiation to the reproductive organs, can disrupt hormone production and lead to hormonal imbalances. These imbalances may cause fertility issues, early menopause, or sexual dysfunction.
What can Cancer Survivors do to Manage these Long-term and Late Effects?
Prioritize Heart-Healthy Habits – Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle can help manage cardiovascular complications. Engage in regular physical activity, follow a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid smoking.
Engage in Cognitive Stimulation – Stay mentally active by challenging your brain through puzzles, reading, learning new skills, or hobbies. Practicing mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques is also advisable to improve focus and memory.
Manage Fatigue – Prioritize self-care and listen to your body. Take regular breaks, get enough sleep, and engage in light exercises or activities that promote relaxation. Conserve your energy by delegating tasks and setting manageable expectations.
Consult with Healthcare Professionals – Discuss hormone replacement therapy, fertility preservation options, or treatments for sexual dysfunction with your healthcare team. Openly communicate your concerns and explore available solutions.
Lifestyle Changes That Can Help with Side Effects of Cancer
Alcohol and Other Drug Use Cessation – Alcohol presents a health risk after treatment, particularly if you have had surgery. Drinking alcohol may increase the risk of cancer recurrence. It also increases the risk for chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Healthy Weight Management – Maintaining a healthy weight reduces your risk of musculoskeletal side effects and cancer recurrence. Eat a diet with various foods and healthy fats, such as olive oil and nuts.
Medications – Take only those medications that are essential for your health. Educate yourself about their side effects and take steps to prevent them from becoming a problem. In some cases, changing your medication may be an excellent option to manage these effects.
Signs and Symptoms
- Shortness of breath or chest pain
- Difficulty concentrating or memory problems
- Persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety
- Persistent fatigue or lack of energy
- Irregular menstrual periods or changes in sexual function
- Body image concerns, feelings of insecurity
It’s important to note that these signs and symptoms can vary among individuals, and it’s essential to communicate any concerns to your healthcare team.
How can Cancer Survivors Prepare for the Possibility of Long-Term and Late Effects?
Awareness is the key to preparing for long-term and late effects. You can minimize their impact by knowing what to expect and how to work through these effects.
In addition to that, regularly scheduled follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider can help identify and treat side effects early.
How can Cancer Survivors Get Support for Managing Long-term and Late Effects?
There are numerous ways to get support and build a network of people to help you manage long-term and late effects.
One method is to join a support group to help you connect with people who understand what you’re going through.
An online community may be another way to find support, especially if talking with people in person is difficult or uncomfortable. You can also speak with a counselor or therapist about coping with these side effects’ emotional impacts.
Cancer treatments and side effects are part of the healing process and pose a significant challenge to cancer patients. However, when managed effectively, they will have a minimal effect on the quality of life. Contact us today to learn how our services can help you and your loved ones live better.