Childhood Cancer

Side Effects & Supportive Care

Cancer and its treatments may cause physical and emotional side effects and late effects. Side effects generally occur during treatment, while late effects may occur after treatment ends or even decades later. Ask your doctor about the potential side effects for each type of treatment, and keep in mind that not everyone experiences the same ones, even with the same diagnosis or treatment.

Fears about the discomfort of side effects add to the stress of having a childhood cancer diagnosis. However, it is now possible to prevent or manage many common side effects of treatment. This is important because when children feel better, they are more likely to complete their planned treatment, which offers the greatest possibility for a successful outcome.

It is not possible to predict how each individual will be affected by childhood cancer treatment, but talking to your child’s health care team can better prepare you for what may happen. Make sure to ask your oncologist specific questions about what to expect when discussing your treatment options. Here are a few suggestions:

  • 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 long will the side effects probably last?
  • Are there medications available to relieve or prevent these side effects?
  • When should I contact a member of my health care team about a side effect?
  • Whom should I call?

You also have access to resources that help you cope with the emotional, nutritional, financial and other effects of your child’s illness. A group of wide-ranging services called supportive care is designed to help you do just that. These valuable resources are available from diagnosis through survivorship.