Late Effects of Chemotherapy
There have been many postings about medium and longterm effects of chemotherapy, but this is a clear and succinct summary from the Komen Foundation. There are the more common "minor" consequences: early menopause, hot flashes, issues with intimacy, weight gain (not to minimize any of these because they surely can be big problems, but they are not life-threatening) and the quite rare "big" consequences of second cancers or cardiac problems. All we can do is make the best choices for ourselves at the time, and most of us are most worried about surviving cancer at the time of diagnosis. I have known two women who later developed leukemia, caused by some of the chemo drugs. This was especially distressing as both of them had "borderline" breast cancers--meaning that it was a judgment call about using chemotherapy. Both of these instances were some years ago when less was none about specific cell types and chemo responses. It was definitely before the discovery of the Oncotype DX which has been a really helpful tool in making treatment decisions in gray areas.
Here is the start and then a link:
What can I expect? Late effects of breast cancer treatment
With continuing advances in treatment, an increasing number of people diagnosed with breast cancer will live for many years. Today, there are more than 2.9 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.1 As survivors live longer, we are learning more about the late effects of breast cancer treatment. Treatment saves lives, but some treatments may lead to health concerns in the future. And while some late effects of breast cancer treatments are known, many are not well understood.
Managing (and when possible, preventing) these late effects of treatment is an important part of follow-up care. Here, we discuss some of the late effects from chemotherapy, targeted therapy and hormone therapy. Being aware of potential health effects may help you discuss your follow-up care with your health care provider.
Survivors also may have long-term health effects from surgery and radiation treatment for breast cancer (learn more).
Late health effects of chemotherapy
Most common side effects of chemotherapy (such as nausea and hair loss) start during treatment and go away shortly after treatment ends. However, some side effects can last for months or even years and occasionally, can be permanent. The possible health effects differ with the type of chemotherapy.
Early menopause and menopausal symptoms
Some chemotherapy drugs can stop regular menstrual periods. Although periods may start again, for women over 40, periods often do not return and menopause begins earlier than expected.2 Menopause can bring on symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness (learn more about these symptoms and ways to manage them).