Chemotherapy side effects after treatment is done

The side effects of chemotherapy can last for some time after treatment is over. New side effects can also emerge after you've finished chemotherapy. These kinds of side effects are sometimes called late effects.

If you're undergoing chemotherapy, make sure to:

  • Ask your doctor if the drugs you're taking put you at risk of late effects and if so, what types of late effects.
  • Ask what signs and symptoms to watch for that may signal a problem.
  • Tell your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms, even if they arise months or years after your last treatment.

Late effects vary depending on the chemotherapy drug being used. They may include the following.

Heart problems

Irregular heartbeat, heart attack and heart failure are among the late effects of chemotherapy. The risk is greater among people with a history of heart disease.

Signs and symptoms to watch for include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blue or purple skin color

Symptoms might not appear until a problem is more advanced, so expect your doctor to do regular electrocardiograms (ECGs) and blood tests to monitor changes in your heart's function.

Brittle bones (osteoporosis)

If you're a woman undergoing chemotherapy, you're at an increased risk of osteoporosis. Cancer drugs can disrupt your hormone system, leading to reduced levels of estrogen, which has a protective effect on bone.

You generally don't have symptoms of osteoporosis until you break a bone. Ask your doctor about a bone mineral density test, which can detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs.

Aug. 29, 2014 See more In-depth