Long-term side effects of treatment

After surgery or radiation therapy, many people have to adjust to significant changes. Everyone will respond differently – talk to your doctor about what to expect and try to see a speech pathologist and/or dietitian before treatment starts.

For more on this, see Managing side effects.

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Breathing changes

After some types of throat surgery, you may need help breathing. The surgeon may insert a temporary tracheostomy tube in your neck. If you have a total laryngectomy, you’ll need a permanent hole (stoma).

Taste and smell changes

If you have a craniofacial resection, you may lose your sense of smell. Your sense of taste will also be affected. If you have a laryngectomy, air will no longer pass through your nose, which can affect your sense of smell. Surgery in the mouth may also lead to changes in taste.

Swallowing difficulties

Surgery may affect your ability to swallow. A speech pathologist can suggest ways to modify the texture of your food and drink to make them easier to swallow. If you are having difficulty eating or drinking, you may be given a temporary or permanent feeding tube.

Speech or voice changes

Whether you have any changes to how clearly you speak and/or the quality of your voice will depend on the surgery you had. A speech pathologist can provide strategies to help you adjust to these changes.

Appearance changes

Many types of head and neck surgery will cause temporary or permanent changes to the way you look. You may feel distressed or embarrassed about these changes. A reconstructive surgeon is often able to make physical changes (such as scars) less visible. If you have lost teeth, they may be able to be replaced/reconstructed surgically.

Vision changes

If the cancer is in your eye socket, the surgeon may have to remove your eye (orbital exenteration). Your changed vision should not prevent you from continuing activities such as driving or playing sport, but it may take time to get used to the changes.


If you have lymph nodes removed, you may have persistent swelling in the soft tissue in the head and neck.

Pain and physical discomfort

Sometimes pain in your neck or shoulder lasts longer than a few days after surgery. Your health care team will help you manage this. You may also have numbness, reduced or altered movement, or pain in your neck and shoulder on the side of the surgery. A physiotherapist can help you regain movement, however, any numbness may last for many months or be permanent.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on surgery

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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 September 2019
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Cancer information

Learn more about surgery and recovering from it

Making cancer treatment decisions
Decision-making steps, consent and second opinions

Deciding on specialist care
How to find and choose a surgeon, oncologist or other specialist