What are potential after effects of cancer and cancer treatments?

After effects can be described as long-term or late effects of cancer and treatment. Aftereffects can range from very mild to serious. They may vary from one survivor to the next. Doctors cannot always predict if any will occur or how long-lasting they will be. Treatment can help you manage aftereffect symptoms so you can live a full and happy life. 

Long-term effects develop during treatment and are lingering or chronic (do not go away). They continue after treatments are over. Many long-term effects improve or resolve with time such as anemia, fatigue, or anxiety (feeling worried). Some survivors may experience long-term effects that are permanent such as limb loss, weakness, or nerve damage.

Late effects are delayed and can surface months to years after treatment ends. Generally, the earlier these problems are identified, the easier they are to treat. Some late effects are long-lasting or permanent such as certain types of heart disease or lung disease, lymphedema (swelling in a limb due to blockage of the lymph system), osteoporosis, depression, and second cancers.

Examples of aftereffects include:
  • Physical: Fatigue, scars, or loss of limbs
  • Emotional: Anxiety or depression
  • Practical: Challenges with employment or getting health insurance