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Understanding the Late Effects of Cancer and Its Treatment

More people are surviving cancer than ever before. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 13.7 million Americans have a history of cancer, many of whom are survivors of childhood cancers. Over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are alive five years later, many of them cured. As more and more people survive longer, we are seeing new problems develop from the cancer or its treatment. These problems are called late effects.

What causes late effects?

Doctors are trying to figure out why people have late effects, who might be more at risk for getting them, and what can be done to prevent or manage them. Late effects may include physical problems, psychological effects, a second cancer, and other problems. Late effects can depend on:

  • The type of cancer you had

  • How old you were when you were diagnosed and treated

  • The type of treatment you received

Having cancer does not mean that you will definitely have late effects, but you should ask your health care team about your risks of getting late effects, what you can do to prevent them, and how to manage them.

Physical problems

Physical problems often depend on the type of treatment or cancer that a person had. Any part or function of the body can be affected. Some people develop problems with their bones, muscles, hearing, breathing, stomach, kidneys, bladder, blood, and bone marrow. Other people may have hormonal problems, causing growth and puberty problems in children and premature menopause, infertility, and sexual problems in adults. Some people have only one problem while others may have more than one. It is not known why this happens to some people and not to others.

Following is a short list of some treatments and common late effects. Please remember that this list is not complete and you should discuss your situation with your doctor or nurse:

  • Radiation. The late effects of radiation depend on what part of the body was treated and how much radiation was given. For example, if the head was treated with radiation, possible late effects can include cataracts and dental problems. If the abdomen or pelvic area was treated, bowel or bladder problems could develop.

  • Surgery. The late effects of surgery also depend on what part of the body was operated on and what was done. If you have lymph node surgery, then you may develop swelling of the arm or leg (lymphedema). If you had abdominal surgery, scar tissue can sometimes cause bowel problems.

  • Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy late effects depend on the type and amount of drugs given. Some drugs can cause heart damage, while others can affect nerves or cause lung tissue damage or memory problems.

Psychological problems

  • Learning disabilities. Some cancers and their treatments can cause learning disabilities, which can affect how someone learns and remembers things. For example, many people who are treated for brain tumors often need cognitive rehabilitation to train them how to remember and learn things. Researchers are also studying a phenomenon called chemo-brain, which happens when attention, memory, and other cognitive functions are affected after someone has chemotherapy.

  • Emotional problems. Worrying about the cancer returning or having tests is a normal fear. However, when the worry or fear takes over your life, you may need help. Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are two possible effects of the cancer and its treatment. You may also be depressed because of problems caused by late effects. For example, if your cancer or treatment caused you to be infertile or sterile, then you may be depressed about your inability to have children.

Depression is a serious illness. If you are depressed, you may:

  • Focus on the bad things

  • Not enjoy life

  • Feel that life is not worth living

  • Feel that you are a burden

  • Feel that you don't deserve any help

  • Not have energy

  • Stay away from friends and family

Some cancer survivors develop post-traumatic stress disorder, which means that they are having a hard time adjusting to having cancer or to surviving cancer. If you have post-traumatic stress disorder, you may:

  • Have dreams or flashbacks about your cancer or treatment

  • Feel very scared, angry, or upset if you are reminded of your illness or treatment

  • Not remember things

  • Avoid your loved ones and friends

  • Have trouble sleeping

  • Have trouble concentrating

If you think that you have depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, it's important to talk about how you feel. You may need to learn new ways to cope with your feelings and how to relax. Your health care team may be able to recommend a counselor for you to talk to or prescribe an antidepressant.

Second cancers

Developing a second cancer is not common, but it can happen. You could get a second cancer from the treatment you received to cure your first cancer. In some circumstances, additional cancer screening may be recommended. Also, cancer runs in some families who may be prone to getting more than one cancer. And, if you do things that would increase your risk of getting cancer, such as smoking, you could also get another cancer. You can ask your doctor what cancers you might be at higher risk for and what you can do to either reduce your risk for them or find them early.


It's important to talk to your doctor or nurse about late effects. He or she can tell you which problems you could be at risk for, what you can do to prevent them, and how to manage them if they occur. Remember though, most cancer survivors do not develop any late effects. See your doctor regularly for a check-up. Ask if there are programs and support groups for cancer survivors and their families. And, remember that if you feel worried or depressed or are having a hard time coping, you should talk to a mental health professional, such as a licensed clinical social worker, a clinical psychologist, or a psychiatrist.

Living with cancer is very hard. Sometimes surviving it can be hard, too. There is help.





Featuring the New 64-Slice CT Scanner

Broward Health Imperial Point offers a complete line of radiological services, such as our new 64-Slice CT Scanner. We provide the most advanced techniques in diagnostic and therapeutic radiology.

Broward Health Imperial Point’s experienced board certified radiologists, certified technologists, critical care nurses and skilled administrative staff are dedicated to personalized service and high-quality imaging and interpretation. We work closely with your physician to assure timely and convenient scheduling, imaging, treatment and follow-up.

Broward Health Imperial Point's nuclear medicine, MRI, CT, mammography and ultrasound departments are fully accredited by the American College of Radiology. This prestigious achievement is an example of our commitment to providing the highest quality standard in the community. 

Diagnostic Radiography
Plain film radiography - commonly known as x-ray - is safe, noninvasive, and quickly performed. The average exam takes no more than 10-15 minutes. For most plain film exams, no special preparation is required.

Angiography / Interventional Radiology
An angiogram is performed to get a much closer look at arteries or veins than is possible from other means. A long thin tube, or catheter, is guided through the artery to the area to be studied by using a contrast dye and x-rays. Broward Health Imperial Point offers a comprehensive array of interventional procedures including arteriograms, stents, stent grafts, vertebroplasty, uterine fibroid embolization, central lines, drainages, biopsies and angioplasty.

Computerized Tomography
CT scan is a non-invasive technique in which rotating x-ray beams produce thin cross-sectional images of the body. At Broward Health Imperial Point, a licensed radiologic technologist performs the procedure within minutes. 64-Slice CT Scanner provides precise, three dimensional imaging of most structures. We offer heart, calcium scoring, virtual colonoscopy, and other CT screening services.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Magnetic Resonance Angiography
MRI and MRA have greatly improved the sensitivity and accuracy of diagnostic imaging through the use of strong magnetic fields, radiofrequency transducers and computer-assisted imaging. The advantage of MRI is that the patient is not exposed to x-rays.

Comprehensive Breast Imaging and Breast Services
Broward Health Imperial Point offers the highest quality, low-dose mammograms available, provided by ACR certified mammography technologists in our FDA IMQSA-Certified facility. A mammogram can detect breast cancer years before it can be found by a physical examination.

Comprehensive Breast Services include routine screening and diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasound, which also includes mammography and ultrasound guided breast biopsies. State-of-the-art equipment includes our new digital mammography system and breast MRI.

Nuclear Medicine
Broward Health Imperial Point’s high-tech Gamma Camera performs all aspects of diagnostic and therapeutic nuclear medicine procedures. Diagnostic procedures include scintigraphic imaging of the brain, bones, thyroid, heart, lungs and kidneys.

Procedures can be scheduled by calling Central Scheduling 954-759-7500. Procedures are performed Monday - Thursday, 8:30am - 5:00pm, and Friday 9:00am - 5:00pm.

ACR Accredited since 1998 Ultrasound is a quick and painless exam that can be performed without radiation. Diagnostic studies include abdominal, gynecologic, vascular, prostate, thyroid, testicular and musculoskeletal, to name a few. Ultrasound also is used to guide interventional procedures such as biopsies, paracentesis, thoracentesis, needle localizations and breast procedures.

Interventional Neuroradiology
Interventional Neuroradiology is an exciting, minimally invasive approach in the treatment of vascular diseases of the central nervous system. Conditions that, in the past, would have required surgery such as aneurysms, vascular malformations, and tumors of the brain, head and neck can be considered for treatment by using an endovascular approach. Interventional techniques such as thrombolysis are also useful in the management of patients with acute ischemic stroke.

Extended Outpatient Operating Hours:
The Department of Radiology has extended operating hours in its MRI and CT Divisions.

Our MRI unit is state-of-the-art with Short Bore design (which is fast and less claustrophobic) and is open from 7:15am - 6pm, Monday through Friday; and Saturday 8am - 3pm.  We will also make every effort to accommodate walk-in patients, if needed.

The state-of-the-art 64-Slice CT Scanner is open Monday - Friday, from 8am - 6pm, and Saturday from 7am - 3pm.

For further inquiries call 954-776-8856 (CT Scan) or 954-776-8845 (MRI).

Ultrasound is open Monday - Friday from 7:15am - 4:15pm and Saturday from 8:30am - 3:45pm.  

Bone Density is open Monday - Friday from 8am - 6pm and Saturday from 8am - 12noon.

Mammography is available Monday - Friday from 8am - 4pm and every other Saturday from 8am - 11:45am. 

X-Rays (Diagnostic Radiology) are available Monday - Friday from 8am - 6pm and Saturday from 8am - 12noon.

To schedule your outpatient test or procedure call Central Scheduling at 954-759-7500.

Need a Doctor? Call the Broward Health Line at 954-759-7400.