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Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Cardiovascular System

Heart and blood vessel late effects are more likely to occur after treatment for certain childhood cancers.

Treatment for these and other childhood cancers may cause heart and blood vessel late effects:

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Radiation to the chest and certain chemotherapy drugs increase the risk of heart and blood vessel late effects.

The risk of health problems involving the heart and blood vessels increases after treatment with the following:

  • Radiation to the chest or spine: The risk of problems depends on the part of the heart that was exposed to radiation, the amount of radiation given, and whether the radiation was given in small or large doses.
  • Radiation to the brain or neck: The risk of problems depends on the part of the brain or neck that was treated with radiation and the amount of radiation given.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy with anthracyclines such as doxorubicin, daunorubicin, idarubicin, epirubicin, and mitoxantrone. The risk of problems depends on the total dose of anthracycline given. It also depends on whether a drug called dexrazoxane was given during treatment with anthracyclines to lessen heart and blood vessel damage.
  • Stem cell transplant.
  • Biologic therapy.

Childhood cancer survivors who were treated with both radiation to the chest and chemotherapy using anthracyclines are at greatest risk. New treatments that decrease the amount of radiation given and use lower doses of chemotherapy may decrease the risk of heart and blood vessel late effects.

The following may also increase the risk of heart and blood vessel late effects:

Late effects that affect the heart and blood vessels may cause certain health problems.

Childhood cancer survivors who received radiation or certain chemotherapy drugs are at risk of late effects to the heart and blood vessels. These include the following:

Possible signs of heart and blood vessel late effects include trouble breathing and chest pain.

These and other symptoms may be caused by heart and blood vessel late effects:

  • Trouble breathing, especially when you are lying down.
  • Heartbeat that is too slow, too fast, or different from the heart's normal rhythm.
  • Chest pain.
  • Swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen.
  • When exposed to cold or having strong emotions, the fingers, toes, ears, or nose become white and then turn blue. When this happens to the fingers, there may also be pain and tingling.
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg (especially on one side of the body).
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech.
  • Sudden trouble seeing with one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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