Long-Term Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

The day that a cancer patient finishes his or her treatment, he or she starts a new chapter. Some cancer survivors leave cancer behind and continue with their lives with only minimal health problems, while others might discreetly have ongoing health challenges, which could be due to the treatment’s long-term effects.

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A long-term effect is a side effect that arises months or years after the cancer treatment, and any patient who has received treatment could be at risk of developing these side effects.

Types of After Effects

After-Surgery Problems

When any part of the body is removed, this part’s function(s) is also removed, which may cause imbalance to the rest of the body. Here are some of the most common long-term effects of a cancer surgery.

• For survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma, especially those who had their spleens removed: These survivors have higher risk of developing serious infections because of the eradication of spleen’s role in the immune system.

• For people who survived cancers of the soft tissue and bone: They may experience psychological and physical effects from losing parts of their limb and may feel occasional pain in the area of the limb that was removed. For these people who found a good oncologist in Singapore to ease these side effects, there are rehabilitation programmes that can help cope with the physical effects of the surgery.

• For people who had their lymph nodes removed or had radiation therapy to their lymph nodes: They may develop lymphedema, a build-up of lymph fluid that causes pain and swelling. Lymph nodes are essential to the immune system as they help fight infection.

• For people who had their lymph nodes in the abdomen or in the pelvis removed: They may face infertility problems in the future. Learn more about how you can preserve fertility after surgery by talking to a professional oncologist Singapore.

Heart Problems

Both radiation therapy and chemotherapy to the chest can cause heart problems in the future, especially to people who had treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma as a child, those who had higher doses of chemotherapy, and those who were treated with doxorubicin, trastuzumab, daunorubicin, epirubicin or cyclophophamide. Common heart problems that these survivors may experience are the following:

• Coronary Artery Disease – This heart problem is more common on those people who received high dosage of radiation therapy to the chest. Symptoms to look out for are shortness of breath and chest pain.

• Congestive Heart Failure – This is a condition wherein heart muscles weaken. People with this condition may experience swollen hands or feet, dizziness and shortness of breath.

• Arrhythmia – This heart condition is characterized by irregular heartbeat. People with such condition usually experience chest pain, shortness of breath and light-headedness.

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Endocrine System Problems

Certain types of cancer treatments can affect the mechanism of the endocrine system, including the glands and organs responsible for producing hormones and eggs or sperm.

For instance, oophorectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries), hormone therapy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy in the pelvic area can cause menopause. The symptoms of cancer-related menopause could be considerably worse than the symptoms of natural menopause. Likewise, men with prostate cancer who are treated with hormone therapy or have their testicles surgically removed may experience complications similar to menopause-related cancer.

Hypertension

This side effect can occur along with congestive heart failure or could also be a separate side effect. If a patient has hypertension, it’s important to let the Singapore oncologist consultants know so they can take the health condition into consideration when planning for a cancer treatment. A more serious case is when one’s blood pressure rapidly rises, which is called accelerated hypertension. Because this health problem can cause major damage to any organ, it’s critical to undergo maintenance treatment even after cancer.

Bone and Joint Problems

Steroid medications, hormonal therapy, and chemotherapy can cause osteoporosis in the long-run, and cancer survivors who are not physically active have greater risk of developing this complication. A cancer survivor can lower the risk of osteoporosis by eating calcium rich foods, becoming physically active, avoiding tobacco products, and limiting alcohol intake.

Attention, Memory, and Learning Problems

High dosage of chemotherapy and radiation therapy can take a toll on the brain for both children and adults. People who received such treatments may experience cognitive problem in the future. Make sure to discuss this with an oncologist Singapore to find ways to avoid these effects.

Digestion Problems

Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgeries can affect a person’s digestive mechanism. In addition, radiation therapy or surgery done in the abdominal area can cause tissue scarring, intestinal problems, and long-term pain that may affect the body’s digestive ability. Also, some cancer survivors experience chronic diarrhea, which reduces the body’s natural ability to digest and absorb nutrients.

Secondary Cancers

This cancer is either a new cancer that has developed or the previous cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. It can develop as an effect of previous cancer treatments, like radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy, though they fight cancer cells, can also damage bone marrow cells. Because of the said effect, undergoing such treatments can increase the risk of myelodysplasia, a cancer of the blood wherein the bone marrow does not produce enough healthy blood cells. Talk with a Singapore oncologist about how to lower the risk of such disease and what signs and symptoms to look out for.

Emotional Difficulties

Cancer survivors often experience a variety of emotional ups and downs, such as a sense of gratitude to survive the fatal disease, relief, fear of recurrence, depression, anger, anxiety, and isolation. Cancer survivors, as well as their family and friends, may also experience the post-traumatic stress disorder, which is an anxiety disorder. It may arise after a life-threatening circumstance, such as cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Fatigue

Fatigue, the most common side effect of cancer, is a persistent feeling of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. Those who survived the disease experience fatigue for several months and sometimes years after the cancer treatment. Learn more about cancer-related fatigue by talking to the best oncologist in Singapore.

Curing cancer is not yet the end of the fight. Apart from curing the disease, a cancer survivor should be aware that the aftercare is just as critical as fighting cancer. The survivor should be aware of the possible long-term effects he may encounter down the road and the ways to minimize his risks of developing any of mentioned long-term effects.

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