Sunday, November 18, 2012

Effects of Treatment

The effects of chemotherapy and radiation are awful, it is so hard to know this is what we're doing to our child, but without these treatments, his chances of survival are low. Liam's treatment path was chosen to delay radiation as long as we can, and to allow his brain to develop further.

I found a good summary of the side effects of Liam's treatment. The following is from the American Brain Tumor Association, Medulloblastoma:
Side Effects

In the short-term, fatigue, lack of
appetite, nausea, sore throat, difficulty swallowing,
and hair loss in the path of the radiation beams are
the most common acute effects of this treatment.

Children appear to experience greater intensity of
the long-term effects. Radiation may trigger a
decrease in IQ or intellectual ability, accompanied
by learning disabilities, attention deficit and
memory loss. Most of this research has focused on
children: The younger the child during treatment,
the greater the potential subsequent learning
challenges. Infants and children less than 3 years
of age are particularly vulnerable because the brain
is maturing rapidly during this time.

Radiation can also have long-term effects on the
hypothalamus and pituitary, two glands that
contribute important hormones for bodily
function and growth. Since these glands are
directly in the pathway of the radiation beam,
their normal function may be disturbed by the
treatment. As a consequence, patients can have
problems with obesity and hypothyroidism
(thyroid deficiencies). They also may experience
short stature and scoliosis (curvature of the spine)
if the spinal cord is irradiated. Patients should be
evaluated carefully for hypothalamic or pituitary
dysfunction and receive replacement therapy.
Studies have not shown that children treated with
growth hormone replacement are at a higher risk
for tumor recurrence.

Hearing loss may accompany the use of the drug
cisplatin in children. Because this drug has an
important role in treating childhood
medulloblastoma, scientists are testing “protective”
drugs that may be able to defend a child’s hearing
mechanisms from cisplatin. This research is
ongoing. Hearing may also be affected if radiation
beams pass near the ears; an otolaryngologist
(an ear, nose and throat doctor) can be of help in
diagnosing and treating this effect.

The short-term effects of chemotherapy are
similar to those of radiation: Hair loss, nausea,
vomiting, fatigue and weakness. But
chemotherapy can also lead to reduced blood
counts and kidney problems. As patients live
longer, there’s the added risk of secondary
malignancies, such as leukemia.

Liam has some high pitch hearing loss from the chemotherapy drug, cisplatin, but his hearing is still in the normal range. Liam's kidney tests have varied, one test result showed his functioning was at 75%, but another test showed that his kidneys were fully functioning. Liam has another kidney function test coming up.

Liam was going to OT/PT (occupational/physical therapy) every month, but hasn't been the last 3 months because we were in the hospital for so long, we will start this again soon. Liam has come a long way, but still needs work with his fine motor skills, he is able to write lines and simple things, but has work to do before he starts printing letters. We have pre-pencil exercises that we work on, he's really not interested in working on his pencil skills, he doesn't enjoy colouring for long. It's great that Liam loves doing Lego, this is a great exercise for his fine motor skills.


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