More than three-fourths of CURE
readers who responded to our recent online poll said they had not been adequately warned about the side effects and late effects of their cancer treatment.
Although not scientific, the poll echoes frequent comments CURE
receives on its Facebook page from people who are suffering through effects they never imagined possible.
Curetoday.com and CURE
Magazine offer a variety of resources for people dealing with these effects. But remember: It is always a good idea to speak with your health care professionals about any kind of malady you might be experiencing.
Some common side effects and late effects include:
Fatigue is far different than just being tired, which is short-lasting and can be cured by a nap or a good night’s sleep. Instead, cancer-related fatigue – which is a common side effect of treatment – is a chronic condition that does not easily go away. CURE
contributor Bonnie Annis described fatigue
as feeling “too tired to eat, walk to the bathroom or even perform simple tasks.”
While it may sound counter-intuitive, exercise has been shown to increase the energy levels
of people who are experiencing cancer-related fatigue. But of course, it is also important that patients get plenty of rest and do not push themselves past their limits.
Lymphedema is the name for the uncomfortable swelling that can occur after cancer treatment – usually for breast and gynecologic cancers – after one or more lymph nodes are removed. Taking lymph nodes out of the body can block the lymphatic system, which drains toxins from the body.
While there is currently no cure for lymphedema, studies have shown that there are some things that patients can do that will help, such weightlifting exercises
. Other precautions patients can take to avoid a lymphedema flare up
include avoiding punctures and constriction of the affected area.
Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN)
Neuropathy comes in a few forms, including numbness, tingling and pain, usually in the hands and feet. Experts estimate
that about 90 percent of patients who undergo neuro-toxic chemotherapy experience CIPN in one way or another. The condition is permanent for some and may go away for others, but there is ongoing research looking for new ways to better the lives of people with CIPN. In the meantime, experts urge patients not to “wait it out” and tell their health care providers if they are experiencing neuropathy. Physical therapy and/or occupational therapy may help.
It is also particularly important for cancer survivors to be extra careful when walking or doing other activities, as neuropathy may make them more likely to fall or be injured. After breaking her foot, CURE
contributor Barbara Tako wrote
, “Maybe I would have been taking that last step down the stairs more carefully if I had been dwelling on my cancer-related side effects of neuropathy.”
Chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment, commonly referred to as “chemo brain,” is a problem that affects many survivors, who may have trouble focusing or remember things. For some, it ends as treatment is finished, but for others, the side effect lingers for years.
One survivor and CURE
contributor, Martha Carlson, experienced chemo brain after she was treated for metastatic breast cancer in 2015. Some of her coping methods
include creating to-do lists, having a routine, being organized, exercising and, importantly, sharing her experiences with her health care team.
“My brain just doesn’t allow me to function the way I used to. I’m as smart, sure, but functionally I’m a different person,” she wrote.