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

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Talk to your child's doctor about whether your child needs to have tests and procedures to check for signs of teeth and jaw late effects. If tests are needed, find out how often they should be done.

Regular dental care is very important for survivors of childhood cancer.

A dental check-up is suggested every 6 months for survivors of childhood cancer. Also a dental cleaning and fluoride treatment is suggested every 6 months.

Digestive tract

Digestive tract late effects are more likely to occur after treatment for certain childhood cancers.

Treatment for these and other childhood cancers may cause late effects of the digestive tract (esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, rectum and anus):

Radiation to the bladder, prostate, or testicles and certain chemotherapy drugs increase the risk of digestive tract late effects.

The risk of health problems that affect the digestive tract increases after treatment with the following:

  • Radiation therapy to the esophagus, bladder, prostate, or testicles which are near the abdomen, may cause digestive tract problems that begin quickly and last for a short time. In some patients, however, digestive tract problems are delayed and long-lasting. These late effects are caused by radiation therapy that damages the blood vessels. Receiving chemotherapy drugs such as dactinomycin or anthracyclines together with radiation therapy may increase this risk.
  • Pelvic surgery, surgery to remove the bladder, or abdominal laparotomy may also cause digestive tract late effects.
  • Chemotherapy with alkylating agents such as cyclophosphamide, procarbazine, and ifosfamide, or with platinum agents such as cisplatin or carboplatin, or with anthracyclines such as doxorubicin, daunorubicin, idarubicin, epirubicin, and mitoxantrone.
  • Stem cell transplant and a history of chronic graft-versus-host disease.

The following may also increase the risk of digestive tract late effects:

  • Age at diagnosis or when treatment begins.
  • Treatment with both radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Late effects that affect the digestive tract may cause certain health problems.

Digestive tract late effects include the following:

  • A narrowing of the esophagus or intestine.
  • Blocked bowel (chronic).
  • Bowel perforation (a hole in the intestine).
  • Intestine is not able to absorb nutrients from food.
  • Infection of the intestines.

Possible signs of digestive tract late effects include abdominal pain and diarrhea.

These symptoms may be caused by digestive tract late effects:

  • Trouble swallowing or feeling like food is stuck in your throat.
  • Heartburn.
  • Fever with severe pain in the abdomen and nausea.
  • Pain in the abdomen.
  • A change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea).
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, or cramps.
  • Weight loss for no known reason.

Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. Talk to your child's doctor if your child has any of these problems.

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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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