Life after treatment for head and neck

Life after treatment for head and neck cancer and its treatments has its challenges. For example, it can change your ability to chew, swallow or talk. These side effects can be temporary or permanent, and will require ongoing management and rehabilitation. 

Learn about ways to manage these common side effects:


Listen to podcasts on Appetite Loss and Nausea


Dealing with feelings of sadness

If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common among people who have had cancer.

Talk to your GP, as counselling or medication – even for a short time – may help. Some people are able to get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Ask your doctor if you are eligible.

The organisation beyondblue has information about coping with depression and anxiety. Go to beyondblue.org.au or call 1300 22 4636 to order a fact sheet.


Relationships with others

Having cancer can affect your relationships with family, friends and colleagues. This may be because cancer is stressful, tiring and upsetting, or as a result of more positive changes to your values, priorities or outlook on life.

Give yourself time to adjust to what’s happening and do the same for others. People may deal with the cancer in different ways, for example, by being overly positive, playing down fears, or keeping a distance. It may be helpful to discuss your feelings with each other.


Sexuality, intimacy and fertility

Cancer can affect your sexuality in physical and emotional ways. The impact of these changes depends on many factors, such as treatment and side effects, your self-confidence, and whether you have a partner. Although sexual intercourse may not always be possible, closeness and sharing can still be part of your relationship.

If you are able to have sex, you may be advised to use certain types of contraception to protect your partner or avoid pregnancy for a certain period of time. Your doctor will talk to you about the precautions to take. They will also tell you if treatment will affect your fertility permanently or temporarily. If having children is important to you, talk to your doctor before starting treatment.

Call 13 11 20 for free copies of Sexuality, Intimacy and Cancer, Fertility and Cancer, and Emotions and Cancer, or download the booklets from this page.


This information was last reviewed in May 2017
View who reviewed this content
View our editorial policy

Support services

Life after cancer treatment
Webinars, exercise and nutrition, sexuality programs, and back-to-work support

Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono services, financial and legal assistance, and no interest loans

Coping with cancer?
Talk with a health professional or someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Cancer information

Nutrition after cancer treatment
Healthy eating habits to help you maintain good nutrition 

Nutrition and cancer help for carers
Tips for preparing food for someone with cancer

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

SHARE
TOP BACK TO TOP