If your child is being treated for cancer or if you were treated as a child, it’s important to speak with the health care team to learn more about the possible late effects based on your specific situation.
Some treatments used for tumors in the brain or to try to prevent cancer from spreading there can cause late effects.
Careful follow-up after cancer treatment helps doctors find and treat any late effects as early as possible.
The follow-up schedule depends on many things, including the type of cancer the child had, the treatments used, the risk of late effects from those treatments, and other factors such as the patient’s age, amount of chemotherapy or radiation given, and how long it has been since treatment was completed. The treatments used vary from child to child and from one type of cancer to another.
Some types of chemotherapy, given either into a vein (intravenous, or IV chemo) or directly into the spinal column (called intrathecal chemo or “spinal tap chemo”), can also cause learning disabilities in children.
This is more likely if higher doses of certain chemo drugs are used, and if the child is younger at the time of treatment.
In some cases, surgery may be fairly minor and may leave nothing more than a scar.
But the treatments that help these children survive their cancer can also cause health problems later on.
Some children are at greater risk for side effects.
For example, children with the hereditary form of retinoblastoma (an eye cancer) are more sensitive to the effects of radiation.
But even in older children, radiation may cause problems such as learning disabilities.
Doctors try to use as little radiation as possible, but this needs to be balanced with the risk of the cancer growing or returning, as radiation therapy may be lifesaving in some cases.