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Endocrine Late Effects

Some childhood cancer treatments may cause problems in the endocrine system.

How Does the Endocrine System Work?

It is helpful to understand how the endocrine system works to learn how treatment may affect its function.

The endocrine system is a network of glands.

The hypothalamus and pituitary gland, located in the brain, are sometimes called “master glands.” Some cancer treatments, particularly radiation to the brain, may damage these glands. That damage can cause several problems.

The hypothalamus and the pituitary gland control other glands such as the:

  • Thyroid gland
  • Adrenal gland
  • Ovaries (in females)
  • Testes (in males)

These glands make hormones. Hormones are chemical messengers that carry information through the bloodstream to maintain body functions.

The endocrine system controls:

  • Growth
  • Puberty
  • Energy level
  • Urine production
  • Stress response

Reviewed: November 2019