Leukaemia Foundation

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Late Effects

Many people enjoy long and healthy lives after being successfully treated for their blood cancer.

Sometimes, however, the treatment can affect a person’s health for months or even years after it has finished. Some side-effects may not be evident until years after treatment has ceased. These are called ‘late effects’. 

Some people who have been treated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy may be at a higher risk of developing other diseases such as myelodysplastic syndrome (a bone marrow disease) and other (secondary) cancers including leukaemia and melanoma (a type of skin cancer). These cancer treatments also have been shown to increase the risk of cardiac (heart) problems, gut problems, and other organs may be affected too.

Evidence suggests that radiotherapy to the chest at a younger age may increase the chances of developing lung cancer, breast cancer or heart problems later in life. While anthrocycline-containing chemotherapy regimens, may increase the risk of developing heart problems or leukaemia. Therefore, it is important that people who have had these treatments minimise their risk of developing secondary cancers and other health problems by avoiding ultraviolet radiation from the sun, not smoking and by women having regular screening for breast cancer. 

After your treatment has finished, drawing up a late effects plan with your doctor or nurse can help you manage any potential late effects you may be at risk of, so you know what you need to have regularly monitored in the future, by whom, where, and when.