Side effects of radiation in children

Learn about: Side effects of radiation in children from Stuart E. Siegel, MD,...
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Side effects of radiation in children

Radiation can be, particularly, a problem for children. Because, you are radiating growing tissue, by enlarge. In adult, their tissues are pretty well formed. So they're less sensitive to radiation than growing tissues are. The side effects that we see include both immediate and long term. For instance, you can get a redness, almost like a sunburn over the area that has been radiated. You can get soars in the mouth or in other orifices or other areas, where they have open mucosa like the mouth or throat, or the anal area, if those areas are being radiated. You can certainly get nausea and vomiting, if the head or abdomen is being radiated. Organs that are in the radiation field are at the risk of damage. So, if you are radiating the chest, the lungs and heart can be damaged. If the abdomen, the livers and the kidneys can be damaged. So, it's where the radiation field actually shines, to put it in sort of common terms. Where the radiation field shines is where you can get damage. There are ways of reducing that by using newer radiation therapy technique. Where you sharpen the beam, and you don't let it go through as much normal tissue. But, in any case you do have risk of having damage. The other problem with radiation is that it carries a lifelong risk of a second cancer developing in the radiation field. Meaning, a different kind of cancer usually than the one that they were treating in the beginning. So, that's another problem. You have to actually watch lifelong. The risk of that does not go away throughout the entire life. So, many different side effects. Radiation is still needed. It's vital for certain cancers like highly malignant brain tumors and certain soft tissue tumors. But, as much as possible, we as pediatric oncologists are trying to reduce the use of radiation. And, reduce the dose. Because, it does carry with it such significant, longer term side effects than do some of the other treatments we use.

Learn about: Side effects of radiation in children from Stuart E. Siegel, MD,...


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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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