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Physical and psychological long‐term and late effects of cancer

Even though someone who has fully recovered from cancer, has to bear the long-term effects of cancer treatment. Not all of them suffer from the long-term effects but most of them have one or more side effects after receiving treatment. 

Apart from physical side effects, a person has to deal with a lot of psychological aspects as well. The world around you may change a lot and may for a very long time. Let’s discuss how these side effects can affect the life of a cancer survivor both physically as well as psychologically.

Cancer and types of treatment

If you look at the global data, cancer has become one of the deadliest diseases of our time. The number of new cancer cases in 2021 has exceeded 19 million worldwide. Cancer is becoming more common and invasive every day. 

Cancer is a disease in which cells grow uncontrollably and can even spread to other body parts. These cancer cells rob the healthy cells of nutrients which ultimately results in the death of healthy cells. On the other hand, these cancer cells are kind of immortal since they can’t go through apoptosis (natural death of a cell in course of growth and development of any organism).

There are many types of treatment given to a cancer patient depending upon the type of cancer. These can be chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, targeted therapy, etc. 

Long term effects

Even when treatment ends, there can be effects that can last quite a while. There are effects that do not go away. A cancer survivor can experience these effects for many years. 

Long-term effects can arise from any cancer treatment such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and more. 

Chemotherapy-related effects can be dental problems, early menopause, even onset of other cancers, can even cause infertility, lung disease, nerve damage, leading to loss of bone density, etc. 

Radiation therapy can have long-term effects such as tooth decay and cavities, early onset of menopause, heart problems, and thyroid-related problems, which can increase the risk of certain cancers. Others can even lead to stroke, cause infertility, bowel problems, lung disease, can lead to lymphedema, trigger memory loss, and even osteoporosis. 

Surgery can cause scars that don’t fade and can be long-lasting. It can also lead to lymphedema. 

Hormone therapy can cause blood clots, and hot flashes (in both men and women), can increase the risk of other cancers, can cause menopausal symptoms, lead to osteoporosis, and may also cause sexual side effects (male and female). 

Immunotherapy and targeted therapy may also have long-term effects, but this remains to be confirmed. You should remember that everyone who goes through these treatments can get all the effects. Some might not get any of the long-term side effects. Radiation therapy will only affect the part where you received treatment. So, if you didn’t receive it in the area surrounding your sex organs then you won’t get infertility.

Coping with physical long term effects

Sadly, it is unclear whether you can prevent any of these long-term effects. These are yet to be found out. We are still not sure why some people get these side effects while others don’t. You should talk to your specialist about all the possible long-term effects because they are aware of your condition. So, they can help you to cope with the side effects.

It is believed that exercising daily and eating healthy can help you cope with the late-term effects. So, ensure that you include as many fruits and vegetables as you can in your diet. 

Avoid tobacco and say no to smoking which can cause adverse effects on your health. Put a limit on alcohol and only drink in moderation. It is also advisable to have sun exposure unless you have dealt with cancer of the skin.

Psychological impact on the life of cancer Survivors

They often do not look happy or blessed, even when a person is recovering from cancer. It may be because people have experienced many things. The person may still be accustomed to not going to a medical facility. Studies have shown that cancer survivors are more likely to be affected by anxiety and depression than people who have no history of cancer. 

Diagnosis of cancer can have a significant impact on mental health and well-being. Depression and anxiety can impair cancer treatment and recovery, as well as the quality of life and survival. We argue that more research is needed to prevent and treat depression and anxiety in cancer patients who require higher clinical priorities. 

Dealing with depression and anxiety

During the course of treatment, it is very common to feel anxiety before and after the test. You may think that you are not healing the way you should have. You may feel sad, but it’s very common and natural. This can lead to depression. You may lose hope and struggle to focus on your daily work, or even get out of bed. These are all signs of depression. Depression and anxiety are common factors affecting cancer patients, according to studies. 

Do not hide your feelings or talk freely to your doctor. Many believe that fear is only possessed by the weak. But that is not true. Emotional and spiritual well-being is just as important. Mental well-being cannot be treated as a later response. Loss of mental health can affect how your body responds to treatment. 

So don’t hesitate to express your feelings and your pain to your doctor. Because our brain is the same as any other part of the body, it is vulnerable to illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Please consult an expert for available options. Treatment of depression includes prescribing antidepressants. However, the best approach is both medication and psychotherapy. The same applies to anxiety and fear. Some medications are prescribed for anxiety, plus some psychological interventions may help.


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