At present, because of advances in treatment, more than 80% of children treated for cancer have a life span of at least 5 years. Nevertheless, the treatments that help these children survive their cancer can also cause health problems later on.
In a general scenario, most treatment side effects appear during or just after the treatment and go away a short time later. While some problems might not go away or might not show up until months or years after treatment and these problems are called late effects.
Is a child at risk after cancer treatment?
Each child undergoing cancer treatment is unique. The treatments that are done basically varies from child to child and from one type of cancer to another. Things that actually affect a child’s risk include:
- The type of cancer
- Location of cancer in the body
- Age of the child when he went through treatment
- The overall health of the child before the cancer
Different effects are caused by chemotherapy, radiation and major surgery.
The thyroid function in children can be affected by radiation therapy or surgery in the head and neck area, or by total body irradiation. While some treatments damage the thyroid directly, or they can damage the pituitary which on the other hand affects thyroid function.
Gonadal problems can occur due to certain chemotherapy drugs and radiation. Stagnant or slowed growth is a common problem during childhood cancer treatment. Many children catch up to a normal growth pattern after treatment over time but some need hormonal treatment.