What does the term “late effects” mean?

Late effects is the term used to refer to side effects from cancer treatments that might not show up right away. According to the National Cancer Institute, a late effect is a health problem that occurs months or years after a disease is diagnosed or after treatment has ended.

Late effects may be caused by cancer or cancer treatment. They may include physical, mental and social problems and second cancers.

Sometimes late effects are side effects from cancer treatment that simply never go away. For example, sometimes hair loss after radiation is permanent. The type of cancer and its treatment can determine the type and severity of the late effects. Age can also be a factor as childhood cancer survivors often face a greater number of late effects.

There are many variances in late effects, yet some common ones include:

Heart problems, including an increased risk of heart attacks

Lung problems, which can cause difficulty breathing

Lymphedema

Infertility

Memory problems and learning disabilities

Increased risk of other types of cancers

For more information contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge at (225) 927-2273, cbritton@cancerservices.org, or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.

ä Internet Resources:

Long Term Side Effects of Cancer Treatment, American Society of Clinical Oncology

cancer.net

Cancer Survivors: Late effects of Cancer Treatment, Mayo Clinic

mayoclinic.org

This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.