Childhood Cancer

Side Effects

Fears about side effects of treatment add to the stress of a childhood cancer diagnosis. This fear comes from a belief that the discomfort of side effects cannot be relieved. However, it is now possible to prevent or manage many common side effects of childhood cancer treatment. Managing side effects is important because if you feel better, you are more likely to complete your planned treatment, which offers the greatest possibility for a successful outcome.

Not all patients will have the same side effects. A friend or relative may have had a certain side effect after treatment, but that does not mean you will experience the same one. Whether or not you experience a side effect depends on many factors, including your age, your overall health, and your specific treatment plan. Side effects also vary in severity and differ according to the type of treatment. Make sure to ask your oncologist specific questions about what to expect when discussing your treatment options.

Questions to ask your doctor when discussing treatment options.

  • What are the possible side effects of each of my treatment options?
  • How common are these side effects?
  • When are these side effects most likely to occur?
  • How do the benefits of the recommended cancer treatment compare with the risks?
  • How long will the side effects probably last?
  • Is there a way to decrease the possibility that these side effects will occur?
  • Are there medications available to relieve or prevent these side effects?
  • How will I be monitored for long-term side effects, such as heart problems?
  • When should I contact a member of my health care team about a side effect?
  • Whom should I call?

It is not possible to predict how each individual will be affected by childhood cancer treatment, but talking to your health care team can better prepare you for what may happen. Knowing what to expect and how to help prevent or manage side effects can help you feel in control of your body, improve your quality of life, and ensure that you have the best chance for treatment to be effective.

For more in-depth information on side effects, please visit our Managing Side Effects section.