Side effects of chemotherapy in children

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Side effects of chemotherapy in children

Chemotherapy agents, they're drugs, and each of them have specific side effects. They don't all have the same side effects. So, there are some drugs that cause a depression of normal blood count. Where the bone marrow makes blood. It can be suppressed. You can become anemic. You can have a low white count and be at risk of infections. And, you can have low platelets so you bruise or bleed easier. Those are things you have to watch out for. And, with the exception of the low white count, we can actually deal with by giving transfusions. With the low white count, we have to be very careful, and watch for infections. And, treat them very aggressively. Some medicines cause nausea and vomiting, some of the classic chemotherapy associated side effects. But, some don't. Some can cause specific things like hearing loss. Or a kidney damage. Some can cause damage to the heart or the lungs. Some can cause irritation to the liver. So, each drug has different side effects. When we present the chemotherapy treatment that's specific for a patient to the family, we tell them about all the side effects. We tell them that there are some that are common, and are likely to be experienced by the child. There are some that are uncommon. And, there are some that are very, very rare. We go through all of them. And actually, we provide them with written information so they can refer to that. Because, it's often hard to absorb all that in one sitting. So, they have a reference to look at. And they know what to look for. And they know then what to tell us. With the child, we tell them, again, in the language that's appropriate for their age. Some of the drugs cause hair loss. We tell them ahead of time, if we think their hair is going to fall out. We don't want them to be surprised or shocked. Because, they'll think the worst. They'll think, "Oh my God, something terrible is happening to me. I'm going to die." Or something horrible. We want them to know it's going to happen. It's likely to happen, here it's how it's going to happen. But, guess what? It's going to grow back. So, we tell them the side effects. What to expect and then what we expect for the side effects. In terms of they going away. There are a few that might not go away. We tell them if they experience that, that those are likely going to stick there. So we are very, very straightforward with that. And it all depends on the exact drug regiment that they're going be on to which side effects we go over with them.

See Stuart E. Siegel, MD's video on Side effects of chemotherapy in children...


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Stuart E. Siegel, MD

Director, Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Diseases, Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Before recently shifting his focus to international medicine, Stuart Siegel, MD, was Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology for 35 years and the founding director of the the Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Diseases at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and Professor and Head of the Division of Hematology-Oncology Department of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California. He remains a leader in supportive care and research in pediatric oncology, with a special focus on neuroblastoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Ewing Sarcoma, acute lymphoblastic leukemia and brain tumors. From developing the first pediatric protective environment in 1971 for children undergoing intensive chemotherapy, to pioneering current efforts to develop academic and clinical care programs nationally and locally for adolescents and young adults with cancer, Dr. Siegel’s contributions have revolutionized the field of pediatric oncology. Dr. Siegel has been honored for his work by the American Cancer Society, Children Foundation, the Cancer Foundation, the Chase Foundation, Padres Contra El Cancer, the Israel Cancer Research Fund and Ronald McDonald House Charities, where he is a member of the National Board, and has consistently been listed among the nation’s top doctors in such publications asAmerica’s Top Doctors and Best Doctors in America. He is a father of one son, Joshua; grandfather of David and Elijah; and lives in Pacific Palisades with his wife of seven years.

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