Life after cancer

Late effects of cancer treatment

Like any therapy, head and neck cancer treatment has side effects. Some side effects will get better once treatment stops. Others may last for some time after. Some effects of your cancer treatment can last the rest of your life (late effects). Late effects may be physical, psychological or emotional.  Some common late effects of head and neck cancer treatment are:

  • trouble eating, swallowing and speaking

  • dry mouth (xerostomia)

  • increased risk of dental disease

  • loss of taste

  • trouble moving your head, neck or shoulders the way you used to

  • bone death (osteoradionecrosis)

  • feeling very tired (fatigue)

  • changes in the way you look and how you feel about your body (body image)

  • worry or fear the cancer will come back

  • changes to your feelings and mood

  • changes to how you feel about yourself (self-esteem).

The time after treatment for cancer is often called ‘survivorship’. Getting used to life after cancer can take some time. Many people say cancer changes them and that they feel different, even if they look the same. People adjust in different ways, but people often feel that you and the things that are important to you have changed. This is sometimes described as your ‘new normal’.

Coping with the late effects of your cancer treatment and finding your new normal is important to help you live well after cancer.

Finding support to help you cope may help you to feel better overall.

Targeting cancer - Recovery