There are more than 17 million cancer survivors in the United States, and that number is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.
This booklet provides information for people who have completed initial treatment for cancer.
Many survivors experience physical symptoms resulting from treatments for their cancer. It’s important to let your cancer care team know about any symptoms you experience so they can help you manage them.
Depending on the type of treatment you received, these side effects can include:
Fatigue. You may tire more quickly when doing routine tasks, or lack the energy for activities you used to enjoy.
Memory and Cognitive problems. Trouble concentrating or problems with memory may occur.
Food-related issues. The way certain foods taste, the foods your body will tolerate and your ability to enjoy food may be affected.
Dental problems. Some cancer treatments can increase the risk of having long-term dental issues, such as gum disease.
Bone or joint pain. Some people may develop bone thinning (osteoporosis) or joint pain as a result of their treatments. It’s important to maintain bone health with regular weight-bearing exercise (such as walking), a healthy diet and any medications your doctor may prescribe.
Neuropathy. Some chemotherapies can cause numbness, tingling or pain in the hands or feet.
Lymphedema. Swelling in the arms, legs, neck or face may occur when lymph nodes are removed during cancer surgery or radiation, because fluids can build up in those areas.
Other side effects that can occur include anxiety, depression, body image issues and sleep-related problems.
Problems with sexual function may also occur. During and after treatment, men and women may experience a decrease or loss of sexual desire or pain during sex. Women may experience vaginal dryness, numbness and difficulty in achieving orgasm. Men may experience the inability to achieve or maintain an erection and may have ejaculation problems. Let your health care team know about changes in your sexual health, as they may be able to recommend treatment options that can help.
It can take a while to recover after treatment is over. Some side effects may get better over time but not completely go away.
Lingering side effects can be frustrating, especially when you expect to feel better now that treatment is over. It may be helpful to keep a daily log (on paper or in a digital format) of any side effects that you experience. The log should include:
- The specific side effect
- The time the side effect occurred
- The activity you were engaged in when the side effect occurred
- How strongly you were affected, on a scale of 1 to 10
- Any relief measure you might have taken and its effectiveness
This log will make it easier to share information with your health care team. Together, you can find ways to help manage these side effects.