Long-term and late effects of breast cancer treatment
Most women have side effects during treatment for breast cancer and for a few weeks after. Usually, these effects gradually reduce and eventually disappear.
But, some women may have side effects that continue months after treatment and that occasionally become permanent. Other women may develop late effects of treatment months or years later.
Not everyone experiences long-term or late effects and many effects get better over time. How likely you are to have problems depends on different factors, such as the type of treatment you’ve had.
Although this section is addressed to women, some of the information may help men who are also experiencing late effects of breast cancer treatment. Breast cancer in men is rare and there isn’t a lot of specific information available. However, men receive similar breast cancer treatments to women and experience some of the same late effects.
You may come across different terms to describe side effects that develop after treatment or are still present after treatment is over.
There are two commonly used terms:
Long-term effects begin during or shortly after treatment and don’t go away in the six months after treatment. They may go away eventually on their own, with symptoms gradually reducing for up to a year or two after treatment ends. Sometimes long-term effects are permanent.
Late effects are a delayed response to treatment. They don’t appear during treatment, but can happen months or even years later.
There are often things that can be done to manage or treat long-term or late effects. Let your cancer doctor or nurse know if side effects you developed during treatment aren’t going away, or if you develop new symptoms or problems after treatment is over.
In this section, we use the term late effects to cover both long-term and late effects.