Cancer treatment, while lifesaving, often comes with a range of adverse events that can significantly impact patients’ quality of life. These events can persist long after treatment has ended or even appear months or years later. In this article, we delve into the insights from a recent research paper by Dr. Maryam Lustberg, a medical advisor at Learn Look Locate, published in Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology. We explore the common long-term and delayed adverse events associated with cancer treatment and discuss strategies to mitigate them.
Long-Term Adverse Events: An Overview
Patients undergoing chemotherapy are at risk for a range of adverse events, including cancer-related fatigue (CRF), chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), and chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment (CRCI). These events can persist as long-term sequelae in many cancer survivors, affecting their physical condition, emotional well-being, and overall quality of life.
Cancer-Related Fatigue (CRF)
CRF is one of the most burdensome and long-lasting complications of cancer and its treatment. It is experienced as a persistent sense of physical, emotional, and/or cognitive exhaustion. The prevalence of fatigue during cancer treatment can range from 25% to nearly 100%, with 30–60% of patients reporting moderate-to-severe fatigue during treatment. Strategies for managing CRF include physical activity, psychological interventions, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN)
CIPN is a common adverse event that presents with symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness, and increased sensitivity to temperature. It can negatively affect cancer outcomes by leading to reduced dosing or even premature cessation of chemotherapy in patients with a high symptom burden. Management strategies for CIPN include dose adjustments, change of treatment regimen, and the use of certain medications like duloxetine.
Chemotherapy-Related Cognitive Impairment (CRCI)
CRCI, commonly referred to as ‘chemobrain’, involves loss of memory and other cognitive changes associated with chemotherapy. It affects around 35% of survivors of all cancer types and stages and can negatively affect the functional ability and quality of life of patients and their families. Management strategies for CRCI include patient education, cognitive training, rehabilitation, exercise, and mind-body interventions.
Late or Delayed Adverse Events
Late or delayed adverse events, which first appear months or years following treatment, include cardiotoxicity and secondary malignancies. Emotional effects such as anxiety, depression, and fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) are also common.
The management of these adverse events involves prompt assessment, early recognition, and appropriate supportive efforts. For CRF, physical activity and psychological interventions have shown promising results. For CIPN, dose adjustments, change of treatment regimen, and the use of duloxetine have been recommended. For CRCI, routine screening, cognitive training, and mind-body interventions are part of the management strategies.
The journey of a cancer patient doesn’t end with the completion of treatment. Long-term and delayed adverse events can significantly impact survivors’ lives. Understanding these side effects and implementing strategies to mitigate them is crucial to improving the quality of life and overall health of cancer survivors.
Embracing Survivorship: The Way Forward
At Learn Look Locate, we understand the importance of being informed and making the best decisions for your health. We provide resources and tools to help individuals navigate their health journey, particularly in the realm of cancer care. Our mission is to empower individuals with knowledge, fostering a proactive approach to health and wellness. As part of our commitment to this mission, we work closely with medical advisors like Dr. Maryam Lustberg to bring you the latest research and insights in breast cancer care. By understanding the long-term impact of breast cancer treatment, we can better equip ourselves to manage these adverse events and improve our quality of life.