Frequently Asked Questions

What are late effects?

Advances in medical science and the use of aggressive medical techniques have increased the 5 year survival rates for children treated with cancers. Current estimates indicate that more than 80% of children treated for cancer survive 5 years or more.  However, the treatments also present significant side effects, some of which may not appear until months or years after treatment. These late effects can involve more than one part of the body (or more than one organ system) and can range from mild to severe.

Who is at risk for late effects?

Because each child, cancer and treatment is unique, late effects vary.  The type of treatment and the doses administered are the main factors that determine who gets late effects.  Late effects have been linked to:

  • The type of cancer
  • Where the cancer was in the body
  • Age at time of diagnosis and treatment
  • Overall health before the cancer
  • Genetic make-up (inherited risk for certain health problems)

What causes late effects?

  • Chemotherapy given into the spinal column (intrathecal therapy, or IT chemotherapy)
  • Radiation (cranial radiation)
  • Major surgery (Brain surgery)
  • Age younger than 5 at time of treatment
  • Combination of intrathecal chemotherapy and cranial radiation

Common neurocognitive late effects

  • A drop of 10 to 20 points in IQ
  • Lower academic achievement test scores
  • Problems in memory and attention
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Slowed development over time
  • Behavior problems
  • Nonverbal skills like math
  • Seizures and headaches
  • Difficulty with reading, language, and/or arithmetic.
  • Receptive (listening and understanding what someone says) and expressive (saying what you want to say) language
  • Decreased mental processing speed
  • Poor school attendance

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