• There’s a chance you could still get side effects after your treatment has ended
  • This doesn’t mean your cancer has come back
  • They’re caused by a variety of things, including the type of treatment you had
  • Always talk to your clinical care team if you’re struggling with side effects

There’s a chance you could still get side effects a long time after your treatment has finished. Your clinical care team at the hospital will talk to you about this.

This doesn’t happen to everyone and it doesn’t mean your cancer is back. But if it does happen to you, it can be seriously frustrating.

You might hear these called ‘late effects’, ‘late side effects’ or ‘long-term effects’. They’re actually slightly different. Find out more about both below.

Long-term side effects vs late side effects

Long-term effects start during or shortly after treatment and don’t go away within six months of treatment ending. They might eventually go away, or they might be permanent.

Late effects or late side effects are a delayed response to treatment, and you can get these months or even years after treatment.

Whichever ones you have and whatever people call them, they can be really annoying and seem completely unfair. Here, we’ll use the phrase ‘late side effects’ to cover both types – because what we’re really talking about are side effects that carry on after treatment, regardless of when they started.

Remember: not everyone gets late side effects!

What causes late side effects from cancer treatment?

Late side effects come about because some cancer treatments, including surgery, radiation therapy, bone marrow transplants and some types of chemo, can do damage to healthy cells as well as cancerous ones. They can also happen because you’re young and still growing. And this can cause problems that take months or sometimes years to appear.

What are the possible late side effects from cancer treatment?

Possible late side effects vary depending on what kind of cancer you had, where it was, how it was treated and how old you were.

Your doctor or nurse will let you know which effects (if any) have been associated with your cancer.

And at the end of your treatment, you should also be given a treatment summary that explains any potential late side effects and lets you know what to look out for. (If you’re not given one of these, ask about it.) You’ll have regular check-ups, too, to increase the chances of picking things up early.

What help is there for late side effects from cancer treatment?

Late side effects can be really hard to deal with and make you feel like you’ll never be free of cancer. But to help identify and deal with them as early as possible, it’s important to:

  • Talk to your doctor or nurse about whether you’re likely to have late side effects
  • Go to your follow-up appointments and tell your doctors about any problems you’re having
  • Keep a detailed record of your cancer treatments and your care plan (and if you haven’t got a care plan, go and ask your doctors and nurses about it!) This can help doctors you meet in the future who weren’t involved in your cancer treatment
  • Look after yourself – a healthy lifestyle (eating well, exercising, not smoking and so on) can reduce the impact of late side effects