Cancer survivors: Late effects of cancer treatment

Learn about late and long-term effects of cancer treatment so that you can take more control of your health as a cancer survivor.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your cancer treatment is over, but the treatments that may have saved your life may also continue to cause side effects.

As more people are living longer after cancer treatment, more is becoming known about late side effects of cancer treatment.

Find out all you can about late effects of cancer treatment and use this information to help manage your health.

What are late effects of cancer treatment?

Late effects are side effects of cancer treatment that become apparent after your treatment has ended. Cancer survivors might experience late effects of cancer treatment years later.

What cancer treatments cause late effects?

Late effects of cancer treatment can come from any of the three main types of cancer treatment: chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. As newer types of cancer treatment are developed, doctors may find that these treatments also cause late effects in cancer survivors.

Treatment Late side effects
Chemotherapy Cataracts
Early menopause
Heart problems
Increased risk of other cancers
Liver problems
Lung disease
Nerve damage
Reduced lung capacity
Radiation therapy Cataracts
Cavities and tooth decay
Heart and vascular problems
Increased risk of other cancers
Intestinal problems
Lung disease
Memory problems
Skin changes
Surgery Lymphedema

Keep in mind that not everyone who has cancer treatment gets each of the late side effects, and some people might not experience any aftereffects of treatment.

Different chemotherapy drugs cause different late effects. So if you didn't take the chemotherapy drugs that can cause infertility, then you aren't believed to be at risk of that particular late effect.

Radiation and surgery will affect only the area of the body they're used to treat. So, for example, if you had radiation to a part of your body other than your head or neck, then you won't be at risk of cavities and tooth decay as a result of your radiation therapy.

Oct. 08, 2014 See more In-depth