OSF Children's Hospital

Late Effects of Treatment for Children's Cancer

Problems related to cancer treatment that occur or persist after treatment is completed are known as "late effects." Unfortunately, three out of five survivors develop late effects. If they do occur, it is best to catch these early so treatment can begin right away. This is why ongoing follow-up care for children’s cancer survivors is so important.

Avascular Necrosis

Avascular necrosis (AVN) is a disorder resulting from a temporary or permanent loss of blood supply to the bone. Blood carries essential nutrients and oxygen to the bones. When the blood supply is disrupted (avascular), the bone tissues begin to break down (necrosis). This can weaken the bone and eventually result in its collapse. If this occurs near a joint, it can lead to the collapse of the joint surface, resulting in pain and inflammation (arthritis). AVN is also referred to as osteonecrosis, aseptic necrosis, or ischemic bone necrosis.

Bone Health

During childhood and into young adulthood, bone formation occurs faster than bone loss, causing bones to grow and become heavier and more dense. As a person ages, the process of bone removal gradually overtakes bone formation, and bones slowly lose strength as part of the normal aging process.

Osteoporosis is a disorder resulting from too little new bone formation or too much bone loss, causing bones to become weak. Most people do not have symptoms, especially in the early stages. As bones become weaker, fractures may occur after minimal trauma, such as a fall. Osteoporosis may occur in any bone, but most commonly affects the wrist, leg and hip bones.

Possible Risk for Breast Cancer

Several studies have shown that women treated with radiation to the chest for cancer during childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood have an increased risk of developing breast cancer as they get older, compared to women their same age in the general population. 

Hormones and Reproduction

Hormones are chemical messengers whose job is carry information from the endocrine glands through the bloodstream to the body’s cells. Hormones are produced in the body’s endocrine system, which is a group of glands whose job is to regulate body functions that include puberty, growth, energy, and stress response. Glands of the endocrine system include the pituitary, hypothalamus, thyroid, adrenals, pancreas, ovaries (in females) and testes (in males). 

Organs

The human body is full of many organs which help it function. The heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, bladder and spleen are known as vital organs, and can be impacted by cancer and its associated treatments.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy, or damage to the peripheral nerves (nerves outside the brain or spinal cord), is a potential side effect of chemotherapy drugs and may cause the hands or feet to hurt, tingle, and feel numb or weak. Though the discomfort is felt in a muscle or joint, the real damage is to the nerves that control the muscles.

Senses

The human body is known to have five senses each of which helps people understand and interpret the world around them. These senses are: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching.

Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Raynaud’s is a condition that may cause some areas of your body to feel numb and cool in response to cold temperatures or stress. The condition causes occasional narrowing of blood vessels, limiting blood flow for brief periods of time. 

Secondary Cancers

Learning about the risk of developing a second cancer can be frustrating and anxiety provoking. After a battle with children’s cancer, the last thing someone wants to think about is the risk of developing a second cancer during adulthood

Scoliosis and Kyphosis

The spine or "backbone" is a group of bones stacked in a straight line down the middle of the back, held together with muscles and ligaments. Treatment for children's cancer can sometimes result in abnormal curvatures of the spine, known as scoliosis and kyphosis.

Thyroid Problems

Some treatments for children’s cancer may affect the thyroid gland. These effects are usually very easy to treat. Regular check-ups may help find thyroid problems early so that the proper treatment can be started.