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 main types of cancer treatment: chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation, surgery, targeted therapy and immunotherapy. As newer types of cancer treatment are developed, such as immunotherapy, doctors may find that these treatments also cause late effects in cancer survivors.

Treatment Late effects
Chemotherapy
  • Dental problems
  • Early menopause
  • Hearing loss
  • Heart problems
  • Increased risk of other cancers
  • Infertility
  • Loss of taste
  • Lung disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Osteoporosis
  • Reduced lung capacity
Radiation therapy
  • Cavities and tooth decay
  • Early menopause
  • Heart and vascular problems
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Increased risk of other cancers
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Infertility
  • Intestinal problems
  • Lung disease
  • Lymphedema
  • Memory problems
  • Osteoporosis
Surgery Lymphedema
Hormone therapy
  • Blood clots
  • Hot flashes (in men as well as in women)
  • Increased risk of other cancers
  • Menopausal symptoms
  • Osteoporosis
  • Sexual side effects (men and women)
Immunotherapy Late effects unknown at this time
Targeted therapy Late effects unknown at this time

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

Late effects of radiation and surgery will affect only the area of the body exposed to them. 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.

Sept. 12, 2017