Side effects

Whatever type of treatment your child is having, the main aim will be to rid their body of cancer.

However, the treatments may also cause side effects. Although treatments target cancer cells, they can affect other healthy cells that divide and reproduce quickly, such as the cells found in the stomach, skin, mouth, hair and bone marrow. It depends on the type of treatment but common side effects include hair loss, increased risk of infection, changes to your child’s weight, tiredness, problems with concentration and thinking, and issues with eating and digestion. 

If your child is having problems because of their treatment, always ask your care team for help. While the side effects of cancer treatment can be worrying and difficult to deal with, it is important to remember that most of them are only short-term and will gradually disappear once your child's treatment is complete.

Some types of cancer treatment, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy, can increase the risk of later developing another type of cancer. However, this is a rare occurrence – the risk is small compared to the risk of leaving your child’s original cancer untreated. 

This section outlines some of the more common side effects of cancer treatments. Your child’s medical team may give them medication before the side effects make themselves felt. But if your child is struggling with side effects at any point, don’t hesitate to tell their doctor or nurse right away so they can respond quickly. 

As you read through this information, keep in mind that not everyone will experience all the side effects listed – and some people may not experience any at all. If your child doesn't experience the side effects, this doesn't mean that their treatment isn't working.

Updated January 2015, next planned review 2017.