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Cancer survivorship information for survivors and carers Managing long-term and late effects of cancer treatment Long-term and late effects will people who had the same type of treatment can be difficult to know how long these ‘long vary depending on the type and won’t always suffer the same side effects. term’ side effects will last. In time many long- For example, not all chemotherapy drugs term side effects will become less severe or stage of your cancer as well as the cause the same ongoing or late effects. disappear completely. They may include: type of treatment you had. But all the common cancer treatments Children who have had cancer may be at risk • feeling very tired (fatigued) of developing late effects as they grow older. (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, See ‘Further information’ to find out more • pain surgery and hormone therapy) about support for people in this situation. • loss of self-esteem and confidence can cause both long-term and late • changes in the way you look (e.g. scars, an effects. Possible long-term side effects ‘ostomy’ bag, loss of hair or a body part) Not everyone who has cancer treatment Long-term side effects are those that happen • problems with anxiety, depression will have long-term or late effects. Even during or soon after treatment finishes. It and mood swings • changes in the way your bladder and bowel work (e.g. incontinence, constipation, diarrhoea) • menopausal symptoms (e.g. hot flushes, night sweats, weight gain, mood swings) • problems with eating, drinking and weight • mouth and teeth problems • thinning of the bones (osteoporosis) • fertility problems • persistent swelling in the limbs (lymphoedema) • changes in sex life • nerve damage which is sometimes caused by chemotherapy, which can lead to pain, tingling and numbness, Managing long-term and late effects of cancer treatment or functions can be very hard to deal with. • Look after yourself. This means taking Certain side effects may be annoying but care of your mind and body. Try to eat a manageable (e.g. numbness in the hands well-balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and feet). However, others can be more and vegetables, exercise regularly and severe and have a big effect on your quality get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep, a poor of life (e.g. infertility, changes to your sexual diet, alcohol and recreational drugs can life or developing another type of cancer). worsen fears and anxiety. But remember to treat yourself every now and then. There are things that can be done to ‘Everything in moderation’ is a good motto. help control or treat many long-term We don’t want life to become boring! and late effects from cancer treatment. It is important you find the right support • Limit alcohol. Drinking alcohol increases to help you manage and cope with any the risk of certain cancers. If you do drink side effects you have or may develop. alcohol, it is recommended you drink no more than two standard drinks a day. You The following tips may help should avoid binge drinking (excessive • After finishing treatment, it is helpful to drinking in one session) and have one have a survivorship care plan: a written or two alcohol-free days per week. usually in the hands and feet (neuropathy) record with details of the cancer diagnosis, • Quitting smoking. If you smoke, quitting • changes in memory and concentration treatments and an ongoing plan of care. is particularly important as it can reduce sometimes affecting people who have This will provide both you and any other the chance of developing a new cancer, been treated with chemotherapy health professionals you may need to see improve appetite and overall health. (‘chemo-brain’ or ‘chemo fog’) with a good knowledge of your cancer , If you need help quitting, speak with • heart, liver and lung problems. the treatment you have received, what your GP, or call the Quitline. Quitline is to expect following treatment and what a telephone information and advice or Late effects you can do to look after yourself. Speak counselling service for people who want to with your treatment team about providing quit smoking. You can call the Quitline on These can happen years after you with a survivorship care plan. 131 848 confidentially from anywhere in treatment finishes and may be Australia for the cost of a local call only. permanent. They can include: • Keep your follow-up appointments. Tell your doctor about any symptoms • Be physically active. Exercise is regarded • lung, heart and liver problems you have. It is always best to have them as beneficial for people with cancer both • developing another type of cancer checked rather than worry. If you no longer during and following cancer treatment. have follow-up appointments, be sure to Exercise is also important to reduce the • clouding of the lens in the eye, which can report any symptoms to your GP or get a risk of many cancers. ‘Moderate-intensity’ cause difficulty with vision (cataracts) referral back to your cancer specialist. exercise is recommended for people who • infertility • Talk to your doctor about whether or are undergoing cancer treatment or who are • bowel problems not you are at risk of developing late in the recovery phase. ‘Moderate intensity’ effects from your treatment. In some refers to the level of effort required by you • thyroid problems (the thyroid is to experience a change in your heart rate cases they may be able to alert you to the a gland in the neck that makes and breathing. Brisk walking, swimming signs and symptoms of late effects. But some types of hormones) and cycling are especially recommended. this won’t be the case with everyone. • tooth decay • Be Sun Smart. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) • Ask your doctor for help with any ongoing • changes in bone density (osteoporosis) side effects. Don’t let them go on for too radiation is a major cause of skin cancer. It long before asking for help. You may need is important to wear a factor 30 sunscreen, • persistent swelling in the a referral to other health professionals such wear sensible protective clothing, wear limbs (lymphoedema) as a dietitian, specialist nurse or counsellor. a hat and limit your time in the sun. It is • memory problems. about taking a balanced approach to UV • Be healthy. While we are still uncertain exposure to help with vitamin D levels Getting help and support whether or not we can prevent late whilst minimizing the risk of skin cancer effects from cancer treatment, it may Any change in how your body looks, feels with appropriate sun protection methods. still help to stay as healthy as you can. Managing long-term and late effects of cancer treatment Further information Cancer Council (13 11 20) booklets include ‘Life after cancer: a guide for cancer survivors’. Call the Cancer Council to find out about Life after Cancer forums. Through the Cancer Council Helpline (13 11 20) you can speak with a cancer nurse: ask about Family Cancer Connect and support groups and other support services that may help you. Cancer Connect is a free phone peer support service that puts people in touch with others who’ve had a similar cancer experience. www.cancer.org.au If you had cancer as a child and need further information about possible late effects from your treatment: CanTeen (1800 226 833) provides support for young people aged 12 to 24 who are living with cancer. www.canteen.org.au The Children’s Cancer Centre (03 9345 4855) is at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. www.rch.org.au Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre The Peter Mac Late Effects Clinic (03 9656 1111) has a team of Locked Bag 1, A’Beckett Street health professionals who provide East Melbourne VIC 8006 personalised care and information. Phone: 03 9656 1111 www.petermac.org Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Redkite (1300 722 644) provides www.petermac.org/cancersurvivorship emotional support to children and young people (up to the age of 24) and their families through the difficult cancer experience. www.redkite.com.au All of these services may be accessed through their websites.
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