Long Term Side Effects of Chemotherapy – Part I

Cancer is a common reason that individuals may need to file a disability insurance claim.  However, once the cancer goes into remission, insurance companies may pressure a claimant to return to work—even if the insured has not yet returned to optimum health.

One reason that a return to work (or even to normal daily tasks) may be delayed or impossible is due to lasting side effects from chemotherapy. The aim of chemotherapy drugs is to kill fast-growing cells, like cancer cells.  However, because the drugs travel through the body, they can affect other, normal and healthy fast-growing cells. Cells most likely to be damaged by chemo are blood-forming cells in the bone marrow, hair follicles, and cells in the mouth, digestive tract, and reproductive system.  Some chemo drugs can also cause damage to the kidneys, heart, lungs, bladder and nervous system.

Side effects that take months or even years to go away are called late effects.  Sometimes these late effects can last a lifetime and chemo can also sometimes cause delayed effects, including a subsequent cancer that can show up years later.  Late effects of chemotherapy include:

  • Dental problems
  • Early menopause
  • Hearing loss
  • Heart problems
  • Increased risk of other cancers
  • Infertility
  • Loss of taste
  • Lung disease
  • Reduced lung capacity
  • Nerve damage
  • Osteoporosis
  • Bone loss and changes to the joints
  • Brain changes (including memory loss, slowed processing, movement problems, personality changes)
  • Eye problems (including cataracts and dry eye)

During cancer treatment, you will typically have frequent access to a treating provider who can provide other necessary paperwork to your insurance company during the course of a claim.  However, this may not necessarily be the case when it comes to side effects of chemotherapy after remission.  This can be true because many side effects don’t require constant medical monitoring and/or there is no specific course of treatment, or cure, available.

If you are experiencing late effects of chemotherapy and your insuring is challenging your ongoing disability claim, please feel free to contact one of our attorneys directly.

These posts are for informative purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with and diagnosis by a medical professional. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above and have yet to consult with a doctor, do not use this resource to self-diagnose. Please contact your doctor immediately and schedule an appointment to be evaluated for your symptoms


American Cancer Society
Mayo Clinic
National Cancer Institute
MD Anderson Cancer Center


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