Find out more about late effects of head and neck cancer treatment and how they can be treated and managed. This can develop months or years after treatment. Radiation therapy to the head and neck can damage blood vessels, causing bone in the lower jaw to die. Each person experiences different side effects. But you may be more likely to get infections or ulcers in your mouth. There are different terms used to describe side effects that develop after treatment for head and neck cancer, or side effects that you still have after treatment is over. Sometimes long-term effects are permanent. Dealing with these changes can take a lot of effort and determination. Surgery to the neck may cause changes in your neck and shoulders. This may be for a few weeks or it may be long-term. It may be caused by a late effect of treatment such as a stiff jaw (trismus), scar tightness or nerve damage. Sometimes it may be a symptom of cancer coming back. This can lead to an early menopause. Having radiotherapy to your head and neck may affect your voice during treatment and for a few weeks afterwards. This is called lymphoedema. This can cause weight loss, fatigue (having less energy than usual), and dehydration. We have more information about pain and how to manage it. It is important to get to know how your neck feels after surgery for a head and neck cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, other common side effects and coping strategies that can be taken include: 1. But it is important to get it checked out as soon as possible so that you can have treatment for it. This will cause an eruption of teeth in an abnormal alignment (teeth may be crooked). It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. Many people find that it gets easier to eat after treatment finishes. You will need to go to appointments less often over time. Sometimes it is easier to talk to someone who is not close to you or involved in your care. Early side effects happen shortly after you receive radiation therapy. A physiotherapist can offers treatments and exercises to help with reduced movement in the jaw, neck or shoulders and encourages safe physical activities. Head and neck radiotherapy side effects. In some people, radiotherapy can make the skin sore and red (similar to sunburn), darker than normal or dry and itchy. Yay!! After treatment for a head and neck cancer, some people have difficulty concentrating and remembering things. There are a number of things you can do to help yourself cope. Read our information about coronavirus and cancer. Radiotherapy to the head and neck can also cause general side effects such as tiredness and sore skin in the treatment area. If you had pain during treatment, it will usually get better as your tissues heal. This may help them understand what you need to do for your recovery so they are in a better position to help you. Controlling the pain may improve your desire to have sex. The two most commonly used terms are: long-term effects late effects. In this information, we use the term late effects to include both long-term and late effects. A psychologist or counsellor can help you adjust to changes after treatment. Pain can be a useful warning to protect us against injury. The side effects of RT for head and neck cancer are divided into early (acute) and long term (chronic) effects. About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010. But there are often things that can be done to treat and manage them. Early side effects occur during the course of therapy and during the immediate post therapy period (approximately 2-3 weeks after the completion of a course of RT). ... may take years to show up and are often permanent when they do. Department of Radiation Oncology Side Effects of Head and Neck Radiation and How to Manage Them - 3 - o Clean dentures by brushing them or soaking them daily. Side effects depend on the type of cancer, its location, the radiation therapy dose, your general health, and other factors. If possible, take someone with you to your hospital appointments. Sometimes an area that is numb can be injured without you noticing. Radiotherapy or surgery to the head and neck area can cause jaw stiffness. Radiotherapy to the head can cause hair loss in the treatment area. 2006. A dental hygienist can teach you how to keep your mouth clean and prevent tooth decay. Tom’s side effects, according to his wife, ranged from severe fatigue, an inability to swallow food along with the resulting weight loss, and even an inability to have blood drawn. Radiation-induced fibrosis can develop as a late effect of RT in skin and subcutaneous tissue, muscles, or … After having gone through the 6 months of chemo treatments, I found the radiation treatments to be non-eventful. The treatment plan for an individual patient depends on a number of factors, including the exact location of the tumor, the stage of the cancer, and the person’s age and general health. The physical and emotional effects of cancer and its treatment may affect your sexual confidence or ability to have sex. The complications may be side effects of the disease or treatment, or they may have other causes. Radiotherapy to the head and neck can cause temporary side effects, such as a sore mouth or throat and difficulty swallowing. Also, the doctor is likely to counsel patients to stop smoking. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk You may feel too exhausted to have sex during treatment and for a while afterwards. You might have difficulty swallowing during radiotherapy to your head or neck and for several weeks afterwards. Changes to your face, mouth and neck can change how you feel about kissing and having sex. We have more information about the effects on hearing and what might help. If possible, work with a nutritionist to select healthy food and dri… We have more information about how treatment for head and neck cancer may affect the way you eat and drink, and what might help. Many treatment centres have health and well-being events for people who have had head and neck cancer. These effects often get better over time as you recover. Radiotherapy to the head and neck can also cause general side effects such as tiredness and sore skin in … Side effects can happen any time during, immediately after or a few days or weeks after radiation therapy. Tell your cancer doctor or specialist nurse about any side effects that have not gone away or if you have new symptoms. We have more information about how to cope with changes to your mouth or saliva. The two most commonly used terms are: Long-term effects begin during, or shortly after, treatment and do not go away in the 6 months after treatment. Find out about support groups, where to get information and how to get involved with. For some people, these problems continue after treatment is over. Sore skin. This will cause an eruption of teeth in an abnormal alignment (teeth may be crooked). Registered office: 89 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7UQ. An SLT is a specialist who assesses problems with speech, voice and swallowing and teaches you how to manage and improve them. When your treatment has finished, it is natural to want to put the cancer behind you and move forward in your life. This can take up to 2 years. Head And Neck Radiation For information about getting enough nutrition before during and after radiation therapy to the head and neck watch the video nu… National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). VAT no: 668265007. Some head and neck cancer radiation long term side effects may still be easy to manage though. Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, tiredness, depression, constipation, brittle nails, and pale color. Radiation therapy has side effects because it not only kills or slows the growth of cancer cells, it can also affect nearby healthy cells. You may need to do things like regular mouth, jaw, throat, neck or shoulder exercises. Social networking sites can help you connect with people, share information, and give and get support. Always tell your doctor if you have a new pain or pain that is getting worse. You will also need to be careful not to expose the numb area to very hot or very cold temperatures. Gazebo78. They do not appear during treatment, but can happen months or even years later. If you experience one of these symptoms, contact your primary care physician or radiation oncologist. For instance, a radiation therapy that involves the head and neck has affects on the developing adult teeth that lie within the jawbone. Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. These delayed effects can include serious problems such as memory loss, stroke-like symptoms, and poor brain function. Radiation to the brain can also have side effects that show up later – usually from 6 months to many years after treatment ends. Nutrition Support for Adults: Oral Nutrition Support, Enteral Tube Feeding and Parenteral Nutrition. We have more information about cancer and your sex life. Late effects of radiation and surgery will affect only the area of the body exposed to them. Late side effects of radiation therapy may be permanent. Your cancer specialist will have told you if your hearing could be affected. It is important to talk with your health care team about any side effects you After treatment, some people have problems with their body image and self-esteem. It is important to have people around who can support you. Share experiences, ask questions and talk to people who understand. Your salivary glands may gradually recover after treatment finishes, but your saliva may be thicker and sticky. Early side effects happen shortly after you receive radiation therapy. Lymphoedema can also affect tissues inside the neck, such as the throat or larynx (voicebox). Your donations make it happen. But like other cancer treatments, it often causes side effects. Doctors call these cognitive changes (chemo brain). As well as specialist doctors and surgeons, there are other specialists who can help. There are skin camouflage products that can help reduce the difference in skin colour and the appearance of scars. Radiotherapy or chemoradiation to the head or neck can affect your salivary glands. I thank God I'm Alive and that said after 14 years out Stage 3 HNC CANCERS. This usually gets better within a few weeks. Late side effects can happen months to years after you receive radiation therapy. 2016. Jaw stiffness can develop a few weeks or sometimes months after treatment. This can make it harder to stay in the correct position for your treatments. Sometimes they can go on for longer, or have more of an impact on your day-to-day life. How are Head and Neck Cancers Treated? Available from: www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg32  (accessed September 2018). Having radiotherapy for head and neck cancers can cause side effects such as a sore mouth and difficulty swallowing. Most people find that this gradually improves, but occasionally it can last for months or even longer. There are two kinds of radiation side effects: early and late. Head and neck cancer includes cancer from the throat up. This means that you may not make as much spit (saliva) as before and so your mouth may become dry. Hearing can sometimes be affected after treatment for some types of head and neck cancer, such as nasopharyngeal cancer. How much hair loss depends on the size of the area being treated and the dose of radiotherapy. Saliva Glands working only 5 per cent lost all of my teeth 3.Charlie Horses in my neck 4-5 times a day due to the Radiation Chemotherapy treatments caused Nerve and Muscle damaged. Severe Radiation Fibrosis 2. It can also be because of: Radiotherapy for head and neck cancers can sometimes cause the thyroid gland to become underactive (hypothyroid). This often improves as the nerves heal. This condition may be aggravated after head and neck surgery where the neck may develop a woody texture and have limited movement. Other side effects depend on the part of the body that is being treated. So I underwent 7 weeks of Cisplatin along with 35 radiation treatments. Radiation therapy treats many types of cancer effectively. Call freephone 9 to 5 Monday to Friday or email us, Swelling in your neck or face (lymphoedema). How likely treatment is to cause late effects depends on several things, including: There are things you can do to manage late effects. Changes to your lips, teeth, tongue, mouth, nose or throat can affect your speech or the sounds you make for speech (voice). Find out about hair washing tips and wigs. If we do not produce enough thyroid hormones, the cells and organs in our body slow down. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2015; 33, 29 Available from: https://ascopubs.org/doi/full/10.1200/jco.2015.61.3836  (accessed September 2018). We have more information about jaw problems and what can help. You may need therapy after … Treatment for head and neck cancer can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or a. Search our clinical trials database for all cancer trials and studies recruiting in the UK, Questions about cancer? Also operating in Northern Ireland. Long-term impacts of head and neck radiation. If you are at risk of developing an underactive thyroid, you will have yearly blood tests to check it is working normally. Pain can happen for different reasons. Murphy B, Deng J. These symptoms are subtle and may occur very late; therefore, it is important for patients who have received radiation therapy to be tested on a regular basis. Many side effects of radiation therapy to your head and neck can make it hard to eat and drink. Your specialist doctor will see you regularly in outpatient appointments. © Macmillan Cancer Support, registered charity in England and Wales (261017), Scotland (SC039907) and the Isle of Man (604). If you have numbness or a change in sensation in a part of your head or neck, take extra care to protect it. It is natural to feel anxious if you develop pain. Having radiotherapy for head and neck cancers can cause side effects such as a sore mouth and difficulty swallowing. Oral complications affect the mouth. Changes in memory or concentration are usually mild. After surgery for head and neck cancer, it is common to have some swelling in your face or neck. Some effects go away after treatment; others need ongoing management and/or rehabilitation. It can be frustrating to still have side effects. Available from:  https://www.bahno.org.uk/_userfiles/pages/files/ukheadandcancerguidelines2016.pdf (accessed September 2018). British Association of Head and Neck Oncologists. Surgery or radiotherapy for head and neck cancers can change how you eat and drink. Lymphoedema may be worse in the morning and improve as the day goes on. Here are 5 side effects … If you have a sore mouth, it is still important to continue with regular mouth care. These are the side effects I have endured. Our Online Community is a good place to do this. Your doctor can refer you for treatment for this. Radiotherapy to the head and neck often causes a sore mouth. If long-term side effects occur, they typically develop within two to three years of treatment. There may also be other changes in your day-to-day life you need to adjust to. Nearly any treatment can cause late effects, and these late effects are specific to the treatment you received. Most side effects generally go away within a few weeks to 2 months of finishing treatment. The doctor may monitor thyroid and pituitary gland function, especially if the head or neck was treated with radiation. If you need to talk, we'll listen. Early side effects occur during the course of therapy and during the immediate post therapy period (approximately 2–3 weeks after the completion of a course of RT). Some skin camouflage products can be applied to a facial prostheses to match skin tone. If you feel anything new, you should contact your specialist nurse or consultant. Survivors of Hodgkin ly… They are usually more severe if you have radiotherapy combined with chemotherapy. Re: Your experience with side effects from head & neck cancer treatment (radiation / mucositis) 30 rads .. okay so that's 6 weeks. Late side effects can happen months to years after you receive radiation therapy. We have more information about changes to speech and voice, and what might help. We have more information about managing tiredness. Sometimes, tiredness is linked to pain. It can occur months or years after treatment. This is because side effects such as pain, swelling, feeling sick and tiredness are improving. 1. Hearing loss may start slowly in the first 2 years after treatment. Surgery may affect nearby nerves and cause a change in sensation or numbness in that area. Sometimes pain or discomfort lasts for several months or more. Isle of Man company number 4694F. But for some people, they last longer or may be permanent. Symptoms may slowly get better over 1 or 2 years after treatment ends, or even longer. Oral complications are common in cancer patients, especially those with head and neck cancer. Treatment for head and neck cancer is always developing and people are living for longer because of improved treatments. delivered and what parts of the head and neck received radiation. ORN affects around 5–7% of people who have radiation therapy to the head and neck. If the nerve was cut, changes in that area will be permanent. Your saliva will also become thicker and stickier, depending on how much radiation was delivered to your salivary glands. For instance, a radiation therapy that involves the head and neck has affects on the developing adult teeth that lie within the jawbone. Below is a list of some of the more common late effects. Malnutrition: Nearly all of the side effects of radiation therapy for head and neck cancer may contribute to malnutrition. The amount of stiffness varies from person to person. The following side effects 1. Followed 18 years later by 25 more in the same area for a third diagnosis for head and neck cancer. Your radiotherapy team will advise you on how to try to maintain your weight. A lymphoedema specialist can help manage fluid build-up in the tissues (lymphoedema). UK Oral Management in Cancer Care Group. We have more information about cognitive changes. Some people have a dry mouth permanently. Most difficulties will improve over time. This is also helpful to understand how newer techniques, such as IMRT and proton therapy can reduce the side effects of head and neck irradiation. Feeling tired and lethargic is one of the symptoms of an underactive thyroid. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information. An occupational therapist can help with ongoing tiredness (fatigue). It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Chris Alcock, Consultant Clinical Oncologist. But some side effects may continue after treatment is over because it takes time for healthy cells to recover from the effects of radiation therapy. For the study, the researchers collected data on 1,100 patients who had radiation for head and neck cancer between 1990 and 2005. In July of that year I was declared cancer-free and just celebrated my 4th anniversary as such. As well as your healthcare team, this may include a partner, family or friends. It is safer to use an electric razor. Some of these changes may happen straight after surgery. Others may be left with a low sex drive (libido) or have sexual difficulties as a result of the physical effects of treatment. An anonymous network of people affected by cancer which is free to join. Complications are new medical problems that occur during or after a disease, procedure, or treatment and that make recovery harder. The side effects of radiation therapy depend on the area of the body that receives radiation. These may include the following: A dentist who designs prostheses (obturators), implants and dentures to help with eating, speech and appearance. Here are some of the problems that can come up during radiation treatment for head and neck cancer, and afterward: Xerostomia (dry mouth) One of the main side effects is that you will produce less saliva, or spit. Doctors and researchers are trying to make sure people get the best treatment but have as few side effects as possible. Side effects can be mild or more severe, depending on the size of the area being treated and the length of your treatment. It is rare for a symptom to pop up eight to 10 years later. We’ve created a new account area offering personalised cancer information and support. Swelling of the face or neck (lymphoedema), What's going on near you? Some chemotherapy drugs can affect nerves and cause symptoms such as pins and needles, numbness or pain to the hands and feet. Radiation therapy works by damaging DNA in cells. These hormones control all the cells in our body so that it is able to work normally. Ask your care team about the side effects you might get. Advances in Supportive Care for Late Effects of Head and Neck Cancer. Who can help you manage the late effects of head and neck cancer treatment? One of the frequently encountered complications of radiation therapy for head and neck cancer is abnormally low levels of thyroid hormone, referred to as hypothyroidism. We have more information about the effects of treatment on the neck and shoulders and what might help. Unfortunately, this damage isn't isolated to cancer cells alone, and normal cells can be damaged as well. You might lose weight during radiotherapy to the head and neck. We are also learning more about late effects and how they can be managed. Among these patients, 112 were followed for at least 10 years. This is called peripheral neuropathy. Mouth Care Guidance and Support in Cancer and Palliative Care. Some treatments can temporarily affect periods. Sometimes pain is caused by lymphoedema. Another major side effect o… We know it’s a worrying time for people with cancer, we have information to help. Some head and neck cancer radiation long term side effects may still be easy to manage though. Others may develop months afterwards. Treatments for this category of cancers often includes either chemotherapy, radiation, or both. 2015. Many people who get radiation therapy experience fatigue. Side effects vary from person to person and depend on things such as the part of your body being treated and the type of radiotherapy you have. The Macmillan Support Line offers confidential support to people living with cancer and their loved ones. It is helpful to summarize the long-term side effects by considering the normal tissues in the head and neck that were included in the treatment field. You are at greater risk of developing long-term swelling if: The swelling happens because the lymphatic system, which normally drains fluid away, is not working properly. This usually goes away within a few weeks. They can arrange tests to find out the cause. This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. After radiotherapy to treat a head and neck cancer, you are at risk of getting swelling called lymphoedema in your neck or face. You can also talk to our cancer support specialists on the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00. Below is a sample of the sources used in our late effects of head and neck cancer treatment information. So, for example, if you had radiation to a part of your body other than your head or neck, then you won't be at risk of cavities and tooth decay as a result of your radiation therapy. The side effects of radiation therapy depend on the area of the body that receives radiation. The side effects from radiation can be lifelong issues that are sometimes life-threatening. There are different terms used to describe side effects that develop after treatment for head and neck cancer, or side effects that you still have after treatment is over. Find out about ways to manage these side effects. This could be a counsellor or members of a support group who have been through a similar experience. We have more information about lymphoedema, how to reduce your risk of developing it and how it is managed. It can be treated with tablets that you take every day. These help patients who are dealing with the physical and emotional late effects. The side effects of RT for HNC are divided into early (acute) and long-term (chronic) effects [3]. You may lose interest in sex, feel unattractive or worry that you will never be able to be sexually active. We help people get through cancer. If your weight changes, the mask used during your treatment may not fit correctly. Head and Neck Cancer: United Kingdom National Multidisciplinary Guidelines. This can cause problems with speaking, swallowing of breathing. Speak to your specialist nurse about what is available in your local centre. They may go away eventually on their own. • Avoid irritating the inside of your mouth: o Use an extra-soft toothbrush, and run warm water over your toothbrush to soften bristles before each use. They often get better within a year of finishing treatment. As you recover from cancer treatment, you may need to re-learn skills, such as swallowing or speaking. Available from: http://www.ukomic.co.uk/documents/UK_OM_Guidelines.pdf (accessed September 2018). Learn more about possible side effects. This may affect the picture you have in your mind of how you look, and how you think and feel about your body (your body image). The thyroid gland is in the front of the neck and makes hormones. Late side effects of radiation therapy may be permanent. If you’re diagnosed with cancer, your worries are our worries and we will move mountains to help you live life as fully as you can. While radiation therapy has improved significantly such that less damage occurs to healthy cells than in the past, some healthy tissues are inevitably exposed.2 It is normal to have ups and downs, and there may be times when you do not feel you are making progress. This is called osteoradionecrosis (ORN). Find the nearest Macmillan information and support centre, Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for people with cancer, Coronavirus guidance if you have recovered from cancer, Shielding – Taking care of yourself at home, Self-isolation advice during the coronavirus outbreak, The latest updates to Macmillan's services, Coronavirus vaccine for people living with cancer, Coronavirus guidance for people worried they have cancer, Coronavirus information for healthcare professionals, Late effects of head and neck cancer treatment, how to cope with changes to your mouth or saliva, effects of treatment on the neck and shoulders, https://ascopubs.org/doi/full/10.1200/jco.2015.61.3836, https://www.bahno.org.uk/_userfiles/pages/files/ukheadandcancerguidelines2016.pdf, http://www.ukomic.co.uk/documents/UK_OM_Guidelines.pdf, your general health before treatment started, you had an operation to remove lymph nodes from your neck. Radiotherapy to the head and neck can cause problems with your mouth or teeth, such as a sore or dry mouth, tooth decay or thrush. If you have problems with pain, this may affect your sex drive. Adjusting to changes after treatment takes time. A nurse who gives information and support on managing side effects. Surgery depend on the type of cancer and their loved ones might help take someone with to! Time during, immediately after or a change in sensation or numbness that... The cells and organs in our body so that you may be more likely to get to how. To talk to people living with cancer, its location, the radiation therapy be. Us, swelling, feeling sick and tiredness are improving you can also cause general side effects time you! Your general health, and give and get support have new symptoms several afterwards... To match skin tone, 2015 ; 33, 29 available from: https: //www.bahno.org.uk/_userfiles/pages/files/ukheadandcancerguidelines2016.pdf ( accessed September )... 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