Other physical problems

Cancer survivors can also experience a range of other physical problems after treatment. Some common problems are discussed below. If you would like more information about managing these or any other problems, call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

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Balance or mobility problems

Surgery or cancer treatment may have affected your balance or ability to walk or move around. Balance training guided by an exercise physiologist, physiotherapist or occupational therapist may assist with these problems.

Bowel or bladder changes

Changes to how your bowel or bladder works can be very distressing and difficult to adjust to. Some medicines and cancer treatments can cause constipation, diarrhoea or incontinence.

Some people have a stoma because of their treatment. These changes may be temporary or ongoing, and may require specialised help or products. If you experience any of these problems, talk to your GP, specialist doctor, specialist nurse or dietitian. Drinking more water and dietary changes may also help.

Incontinence is when a person is not able to control their bladder or bowel. Temporary or permanent incontinence can be a side effect of treatment for cancer of the bladder, bowel, prostate, penis, ovaries, uterus, cervix or vagina.

For many people, incontinence is an embarrassing problem. However there is help available, and ways to better manage or perhaps even cure the incontinence, e.g a physiotherapist can teach you exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. For more information and support, call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 or visit continence.org.au or bladderbowel.gov.au.

The blood vessels in the bowel and bladder can become more fragile after radiation therapy to the pelvic area. This can cause blood to appear in your urine or bowel movements, months or even years after treatment. Always seek advice from your specialist or GP if you notice new or unusual bleeding. Keep in mind that it may not be related to your treatment.

Heart problems

Radiation therapy to the chest and some types of chemotherapy may damage the heart muscle and lead to an increased risk of heart problems after treatment. Risk factors include certain types of drugs, such as anthracycline chemotherapy drugs and HER2-targeted agents; radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy; younger age at treatment; diabetes; high blood pressure (hypertension); obesity; and smoking.

If you have received high-risk chemotherapy or targeted therapy drugs, radiation therapy to the chest or whole body, or combined radiation therapy and chemotherapy, talk to your doctor about your heart health and the symptoms to look out for. If you develop heart problems later in life, make sure you alert your doctors to the cancer treatment you received.

Bone density loss (osteoporosis)

Cancer and its treatment, particularly radiation therapy, can have long-term effects on your bone strength. Menopause and some types of hormone therapy may also cause bones to weaken and break more easily. Talk to your doctor about having a bone density test or taking medicine to prevent your bones from becoming weak.

Regular exercise, eating calcium-rich foods (e.g. yoghurt, milk, tofu, green vegetables) and getting enough vitamin D will also help keep your bones strong. For more information call Osteoporosis Australia on 1800 242 141 or visit osteoporosis.org.au.

Mouth or teeth problems

You may have problems with your mouth or teeth, find it difficult to swallow, or have a dry mouth. These problems can affect your ability to eat, drink, manage your weight or talk. Depending on the type of cancer and treatment, these problems may be temporary or ongoing. It may help to see a dietitian or speech pathologist. It is important to have regular dental check- ups after cancer treatment, especially if you had surgery or radiation therapy to the head or neck region.

Hearing problems

Radiation therapy to the head or neck and some chemotherapy drugs can affect your hearing. Some people lose the ability to hear high-pitched sounds, or develop a constant ringing in their ears known as tinnitus. These problems may go away when treatment ends or they may be permanent. Tell your GP if you notice any change in your hearing or if these symptoms don’t go away.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on Mouth Health.

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in April 2018
View who reviewed this content
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A face-to-face exercise and nutrition program for cancer survivors

Cancer information

Managing cancer side effects
Cancer and cancer treatments may cause a range of side effects. They vary depending on the treatments you were given

Staying healthy after treatment
Lifestyle changes that can help keep you in good health

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends