Brain tumours: Life after treatment

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Important information on some of the side effects that your child may experience from brain tumour therapy.

Key points

  • Brain tumours and their treatment can affect learning, mental health, physical abilities, senses, growth, puberty, and fertility.
  • Factors that impact the late effects of a brain tumour include: the type and location of the tumour; age at diagnosis and treatment; type and intensity of treatment.
  • Your child should attend follow-up visits to monitor for late effects of treatment.

When brain tumour treatment ends

It is natural for parents to wonder or worry about what their child’s life will be like after completing treatment for a brain tumour. Both the tumour and the treatment can have long-term effects on health and learning. Some problems appear during treatment. Others can appear months or even years later. These are called late effects. Some of these late effects can be serious.

Treatments have changed over the years in an attempt to reduce these problems. The late effects seen today in adults who had brain tumours as children are the result of treatments from many years ago. They may not give you an accurate picture of what your child will experience when they grow up.

Your treatment team will advise you on the late effects that your child may develop and give you information on how the effects are screened, managed, and treated. Because late effects may develop years after treatment, it is important for your child to regularly come to follow-up clinics, even as an adult.

Will my child experience late effects?

Several factors have an impact on the late effects your child may experience. These include:

  • the type of tumour and where it is located in the brain or spine
  • the age at which your child was diagnosed and treated
  • the type and intensity of treatment (chemotherapy, surgery, and/or radiation therapy)

What are late effects of brain tumour treatment?

Most of the late effects are rare and are unlikely to happen to your child. Also, some effects only happen with certain types of tumours or treatments. This information should be seen as a reference guide about what to watch for, not a sign of what will happen.

Over the long term, a brain tumour or its treatment may affect:

Other possible late effects of a brain tumour or its treatment include:

Doctors and researchers are still determining some of the late effects of brain tumours which are not yet known. Better knowledge may change how brain tumours are treated tumours in the future.

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Last updated: January 10th 2022