How Cancer Treatments Can Affect Your Child

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It is important to attend follow up appointments after cancer treatment to minimize the effects of the treatments on the body. It also helps you to know the specific problems or illnesses that are likely to develop after treatment. Cancer treatment can have many effects on children’s growth and immune systems.

Puberty and Fertility

Radiotherapy can affect fertility and the onset of puberty, especially if the treatment targets the brain or lower abdomen. Radiotherapy treatment can affect the growth of reproductive organs including testicles and ovaries. In addition, puberty can be affected by total body radiation, which is often accompanied by a bone marrow transplant. Other cancer treatments that are likely to interfere with a child’s puberty include chemotherapy and surgery to the ovaries, womb, or testicles.

Hormone replacement therapy can minimize the effects of cancer treatments on puberty and growth. However, it may be difficult to know children’s fertility status after cancer treatment. They can have hormone tests once they are old enough. Alternatively, sperm and ovarian tissue storage may be recommended for older boys and girls respectively before they begin cancer treatment.

Growth and Development

A child’s growth and development can be greatly affected by radiotherapy, especially if the treatment targets the spine or legs. It may cause stunted growth or abnormalities in the development of leg bones and muscles. Radiotherapy treatment that targets brain cancer can also affect growth. The treatment can affect production of growth hormones by the pituitary gland located at the base of the brain.

Heart and Lungs

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can affect the heart and lungs. Although the effects may not be immediately noticed after medication, ultrasound scans and lung function tests can help determine the effects of the cancer treatments on the child’s heart and lungs.

Hearing Loss

Radiotherapy treatment can affect hearing and make it difficult for children to distinguish high-pitched sounds. Some children may have to use hearing aids after cancer treatment.

Kidney Problems

Cancer treatments may also affect kidney functions. A GFR test can help determine the effects of cancer treatments on children. Those with well-functioning kidneys at the end of the treatment period are not likely to experience kidney-related problems afterwards.