Side Effects of Childhood Cancer

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Childhood Cancer can result in many side-effects, including physical, social, and emotional side effects. For this reason, preventing and controlling the side effects of the cancer and/or its treatment is very important. This is known as symptom management, palliative or supportive care, and is an essential part of the overall treatment plan.

Side effects depend on a variety of factors, including the cancer’s stage, the length and dosage of treatment(s), and your child’s overall health.

It is important to speak to your child’s oncologist about the specific type of side-effects they may experience based on the type of cancer they have, when they are likely to occur, and the best ways to prevent, manage and treat them.

It is also important that you ask about the level of care that your child will require once they return home, both during treatment and while in recovery, as it is often a good idea to enlist the help of family and friends to help with care-giving.

The most common side effects caused by the different treatment options for childhood cancer are described in detail within the specific Conventional Medical Treatment sections:

Side Effects of Chemotherapy;

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy;

Side Effects of Stem Cell/Bone Marrow Transplantation; and

Side Effects of Surgery.


Other physical side effects include:


Appetite Loss

Attention, Thinking, or Memory Problems

Bleeding Problems

Blocked Intestine or Gastrointestinal Obstruction


Clotting Problems



Dental and Oral Health


Difficulty Chewing

Difficulty Swallowing (Dysphagia)

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

Fluid Retention (Oedema)


Fluid Around the Lungs or Malignant Pleural Effusion

Fluid in the Abdomen or Ascites

Graft-Versus-Host Disease

Hair Loss or Alopecia

Hand-Foot Syndrome or Palmar-Plantar Erythrodysesthesia





Mental Confusion or Delirium

Mouth Sores or Mucositis

Nausea and Vomiting

Nervous System Side Effects




Peripheral Neuropathy

Shortness of Breath (Dyspnoea)

Skin Conditions

Skin Reactions to Targeted Therapies

Sleeping Problems: Hypersomnia, Somnolence Syndrome or Nightmares

Sleeping Problems: Insomnia

Superior Vena Cava Syndrome

Taste Changes


Urinary Incontinence

Weight Gain

Weight Loss


Be sure to tell your child’s Health Care Team about the side effects your child experiences, during and after treatment, even if you feel they are not serious.

Social and Emotional Side Effects also often occur, and Children with Cancer and their families are encouraged to share their feelings with a member of their health care team who can help with coping strategies.

Sometimes, side effects can last beyond the treatment period, called a long-term side effect. A side effect that occurs months or years after treatment is called a late effect.


We will be updating this page as we go, so please continue to return here to check the updated Side-Effects of Childhood Cancer 



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