The treatment of childhood cancers has improved dramatically in recent decades, with cure rates higher than ever before. Our experts take every precaution to limit the side effects of treatment, working closely with many specialists to treat any heart, lung, hormone, hearing, or dental issues that arise. Learn about several of our subspecialty areas below.
Neurology: Protecting Your Child’s Nervous System
Cancer treatments – including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery – can sometimes cause headaches, difficulty walking, seizures, or issues with thinking and problem solving. Our pediatric neurologists understand that your child’s developing nervous system requires special care during treatment.We work with other members of your child’s healthcare team to reduce the effects of cancer therapies on your child’s brain, spine, and nerves. We monitor your child’s nervous system during treatment with the most-advanced neurological tests, and can manage the care of an existing nervous system disorder (such as epilepsy) as well. Our goal is to preserve neurological and cognitive function, so your child can easily resume everyday activities after completing therapy.
Memorial Sloan Kettering’s pediatric neurologists have particular expertise caring for patients with:
- Paraneoplastic syndromes caused by complications of cancer, which may impair walking, talking, and eye movement
- Cerebellar mutism (also called posterior fossa syndrome), which can affect children who have had surgery for a brain tumor called medulloblastoma, and can impair walking, speech, chewing, and swallowing.
- Neurocutaneous melanocytosis – sometimes seen in children with large abnormal moles – which can cause seizures, developmental delays, and melanoma of the brain or spinal cord
- Neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder associated with nervous system tumors
- Cancers related to a rare nervous system disorder called opsoclonus myoclonus syndrome
In addition, we work closely with rehabilitation specialists including physical, occupational, and speech therapists at Memorial Sloan Kettering, as well as the Long-Term Follow-Up Program, to monitor any neurological changes that may arise during your child’s recovery process.
Cardiology: Caring for Your Child’s Heart
Some forms of cancer treatment, particularly radiation therapy to the chest and chemotherapy drugs such as doxorubicin, can have an effect on the heart. To identify any changes in cardiac function, we listen to your child’s heart frequently during treatment and monitor it using imaging methods such as echocardiography, nuclear cardiac scans, MRI, and CT scans. The guidelines that our pediatric cardiologists wrote for monitoring heart function during and after cancer therapy are now used by physicians around the world.
We take particular care with our young patients who have preexisting cardiac problems, such as congenital heart disease. We also have expertise in treating children who have rare tumors that invade the heart muscle or tumors that arise in the heart.
After your child completes therapy, our cardiologists continue to work with the Long-Term Follow-Up Program to monitor and respond to any needs involving the heart.
Endocrinology: Monitoring Your Child’s Development and Hormones
Cancer and its treatments can also have an impact on the endocrine system, which produces hormones in the body. At Memorial Sloan Kettering, our pediatric endocrinologist works with children and young adults experiencing hormone or growth problems after cancer treatment as well as those with tumors involving the endocrine organs, such as the thyroid, pituitary, or adrenal glands.