Long term & late effects for childhood leukemia treatmentIf you have a child who has received childhood leukemia treatment, it is good to know what might happen in future. Recent medical advances have meant that more children are today able to survive childhood leukemia. Besides the better cure rates of drugs, new therapies available have reduced side effects. But certain treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation may have some long-term effects

Long term & late effects of leukemia treatment

Cancer treatment is associated with some common side effects such as hair loss and nausea. Most of these effects tend to stop once the treatment stops. However, there are cases where the side effects tend to follow a rather different and unpredictable timetable as highlighted here below:

  • Long term effects refer to side effects that last for a couple of months or even years after the end of the treatment.
  • Late effects refer to those side effects which are noticed first months/ years after the end of the treatment.

These side effects can seriously affect:

  • Cognitive development: radiation therapy that targets the brain can result in learning problems of the child.
  • Physical development: the specific type of leukemia treatment provided can result in medical conditions like:
    • Growth problems: such can happen due to stem cell transplants and growth hormones can be used for treating them.
    • Heart, thyroid or lung problems
    • Second cancer: 5% of children suffering from ALL that are treated with some chemotherapy drugs tend to develop AML- acute myelogenous leukemia and risks of other cancers are also present as well.
    • Hearing loss
    • Osteoporosis: this is bone thinning disease that is caused mainly by corticosteroid drugs.
    • Psychological development: emotional or mood problems might surface.

Who is at risk with leukemia treatment?

From the neurological standpoint, younger children receiving the treatment have a high likelihood of dealing with these long term & late effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Other factors may include the kind of leukemia being treated, length and type of treatment and overall health of the child.

Since the treatment that every child gets must be personalized, your team of physicians will outline the therapy they recommend to you and the particular late or long effects that can follow. Follow up monitoring is necessary to check if the leukemia treated is in remission as well as signs of other possible effects. It is also important that you keep details of your child’s treatment records, which should be made available to the physicians he/ she visits as an adult. Files collected need to include details such as pathology reports, discharge summer after all the hospital stays as well as details of the drugs given at the hospital. You should also discuss the long term & late effects of leukemia treatments with your child.