Cancer treatments are improving—but there are almost always side effects. Sometimes they are temporary, lasting only during treatment or shortly after; other times, though, side effects can last for years.
The side effects of cancer treatment vary from one person to the next. Some people experience few issues, while others have debilitating side effects. Their onset and duration may vary as well. It’s important to talk to your oncologist about any symptoms you experience, so you can get help through doctor-directed cancer rehabilitation services. These are available to manage treatment side effects, improve recovery, ease pain, and increase mobility and function. With follow-up care, therapy, and emotional support, your quality of life can improve.
"Cancer treatments can cause a variety of short- and long-term physical side effects,” says Scott J. Capozza, MS, a board certified oncology rehabilitation specialist at Yale New Haven Hospital’s Rehabilitation Department and Smilow Cancer Hospital’s Survivorship Program. “Cancer-related fatigue and peripheral neuropathy [nerve damage] can last for years following the completion of treatment; some issues such as lymphedema [arm or leg swelling] may not appear until months or years later.”
Rehabilitation professionals who are specially trained to treat the physical side effects of cancer treatment can address many of these concerns. “Understanding the cause of these side effects allows them to develop individualized treatment plans to increase patient mobility, improve function, and positively impact quality of life," says Capozza.