Reasons & Remedies

An unknown percentage of survivors suffer from long-term and late effects of cancer treatment. 

An unknown percentage of survivors suffer from long-term and late effects of cancer treatment. Different conditions cause a variety of symptoms that can often be managed with medication or other types of therapy.

Pain >

Symptoms: Burning, aching, tingling or stabbing sensation

Cause: Pain can occur when tumors press on nerves or organs. It can also be caused by radiation, chemotherapy and surgery that results in nerve damage or other painful side effects

Treatment/Intervention: Opioids, such as morphine, codeine, OxyContin (oxycodone), and fentanyl; anticonvulsants, such as Neurontin (gabapentin); antidepressants; nerve blocks; radiation therapy and integrative treatments, such as relaxation techniques, acupuncture and hypnosis

Fatigue >

Symptoms: Lack of energy, feeling tired even after a good night’s sleep, difficulty concentrating and irritability

Cause: Anemia; depression; thyroid dysfunction; pain; coping difficulties; and chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or biological therapy

Treatment/Intervention: Exercise; stimulants such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Provigil (modafinil); antidepressants; sleep therapy; stress management training and medicines or blood transfusions to treat anemia

Neuropathy >

Symptoms: Numbness, tingling or pins-and-needles sensation, muscle weakness, burning and pain in the extremities

Cause: Damage to peripheral nerves can result from cancer, radiation or chemotherapy drugs

Treatment/Intervention: Anticonvulsants such as Neurontin; antidepressants such as nortriptyline and Elavil (amitriptyline); Lidoderm (lidocaine patch); and drug-free options, including transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and acupuncture

Lymphedema >

Symptoms: Swelling and pain in the affected area

Cause: When lymph nodes are removed or damaged by radiation, anything that causes an increase in lymphatic activity, such as injury, infection or overuse, can lead to a backup of fluid in the tissues “downstream” from the missing nodes

Treatment/Intervention: Manual lymph drainage (a type of massage), compression sleeve or device to reduce swelling, and keeping the area healthy and free of cuts, infection, burns or overexertion

Bone Loss >

Symptoms: Bone pain, fractures and breaks

Cause: A change in hormone levels, which can be caused by aromatase inhibitors; chemotherapy; bone metastases, which cause small holes in the bone or a calcium buildup that increases the risk of fractures; and cancer cells in the bones, which release factors that stimulate osteoclasts (cells that break down bone tissue)

Treatment/Intervention: Calcium and vitamin D supplements; weight-bearing exercise; bisphosphonates, such as Actonel (risedronate), Fosamax (alendronate), Aredia (pamidronate) and Zometa (zoledronic acid)

Sexual Dysfunction >

Symptoms: Loss of sexual desire or libido, erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness and painful intercourse

Cause: Reduced hormone levels because of treatment; surgery that removes the organs that make most of the sex hormones, such as prostatectomy (prostate removal) or oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries); depression; onset of premature menopause; body image issues; and coping difficulties

Treatment/Intervention: Phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors, such as Viagra (sildenafil), Levitra (vardenafil) and Cialis (tadalafil); penile prosthesis; vacuum erection devices; silicone- or water-based lubricants, such as K-Y; vaginal moisturizer, such as Replens; and counseling