Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation
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Late Effects of Treatment

Will treatment lower my child’s IQ?
Will radiation change my child’s personality?
Can treatment stunt my child’s height and affect her reproductive system?

Will treatment lower my child’s IQ?
It’s virtually impossible to treat a brain tumor without affecting healthy parts of the brain. While surgery and chemotherapy can affect a child’s cognitive ability, radiation is the treatment that causes the most concern. The amount and location of radiation and the child’s age at the time of treatment (children under 3 being most vulnerable) influence the impact of radiation on your child’s thought processing, attention span, short-term memory and impulsivity.

While effects from surgery can improve over time, those related to radiation may not become fully apparent until years later. But not every child will experience learning problems, and most children don’t lose skills that were mastered pre-treatment. Neuropsychological testing can identify areas where children may need specialized help in order to reach their potential.

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Will radiation change my child’s personality?
Some families have reported behavioral changes following radiation treatment. These may include compulsive tendencies, lowered inhibitions, social withdrawal and poor control of anger and frustration. This is not universal. Other reports indicate that brain tumor survivors have better coping mechanisms and a greater appreciation of life than their peers.

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Can treatment affect my child’s height and reproductive system?
Radiation to the brain and spine can slow or stunt growth, but human growth hormone may be given if your child is no longer on treatment and MRIs show tumor stability. Chemotherapy and radiation may cause hormone problems, including preventing your child from going through puberty, but this can be treated with hormone replacement. Treatment can also cause precocious puberty (early puberty), which can be postponed with hormones.

Chemotherapy and radiation can have a profound effect on fertility in both girls and boys. Sperm and egg freezing are options for some patients. For more information, see our booklet, “Basic Facts About Late Effects of Pediatric Brain Tumors and Treatments.”

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