As many of you know, I am a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed when I was 2 1/2 with leukemia (ALL), went through chemotherapy for 2.5 years and haven’t had any recurrences since. People always ask if I still have cancer, and I respond with no, and they congratulate me for getting through it and move on. What a lot of people don’t realize is that after the grueling treatments and painful tests, there are long term effects awaiting cancer patients in the future. A lot of which are still being discovered today. It isn’t over when your cancer is gone. It is a lifelong battle. Since September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, I decided to write this to spread awareness.
The Long Term Effects
Infertility can be caused by many surgeries where certain parts of your body that are required to reproduce are removed. However, infertility can also be caused by other treatments (chemotherapy, radiation). It gets a little more specific than that (not all chemotherapy treatments cause infertility), but it’s a common long-term effect that sometimes isn’t discovered until later in life when the person tries to have children and doesn’t succeed.
There are so many possible heart problems that come from radiation and chemotherapy. Some of these are congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, blood pressure problems, and many, many others. This can limit the activities of cancer survivors years after treatment.
Cataracts are basically your eyes getting a “clouding” in the lens, aka having blurred vision.
A lot of treatments can stunt your growth, and cause you to stop growing which results in shortened height.
This is also a common long term effect of patients who have gone through radiation and chemotherapy. Symptoms are getting out of breath easily, and having the lungs inflamed.
Osteoporosis or joint pain is a very common long term effect of cancer treatments. You don’t even have to be older. Younger cancer patients are at risk just as much as a normal older person is who hasn’t even had cancer. This is why it’s especially important for cancer survivors to be really fit and active.
Brain and Spinal Cord Problems
A lot of chemo treatments cause hearing loss as well as nerve damage with radiation treatments. There is also increased risk of strokes and even seizures.
This is such a huge side effect, and probably the most common. A lot of kids who have had cancer and survived it, go through school just fine, and then they suddenly hit a wall where school becomes too difficult. Their grades are dropping and they can’t concentrate. This is a long term effect that takes a while to kick in and when it does, it is really difficult to deal with. Along with these effects are also emotional problems such as anxiety and depression.
All treatments can have a long term (and short term) effect on patients. There can be chronic and constant pain in the abdomen. There can also be problems with absorbing nutrients that have been consumed. A lot of survivors are underweight because of this. (There are also overweight survivors due to the drugs they take)
Yes, a long term effect can actually be cancer itself. Chemotherapy and radiation can get rid of your cancer, but also increases your risk of getting it again, especially leukemia.
Now all of these symptoms can vary depending on the person because of the types of treatments they get. There’s still tons of other effects I haven’t covered because this post is already so long. Long term effects of cancer are still a huge problem today and it needs to be recognized. I struggle with a lot of these day to day. I manage to get through it though! Cancer may be tough on us, but we’re tougher.