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Some survivors of childhood cancer may develop growth problems as a result of cancer treatments.
Growth problems can happen because certain glands in the endocrine system do not produce enough hormones.
The endocrine system is a group of glands that controls body functions including growth, energy, and puberty. These glands release hormones into the bloodstream that carry messages to cells throughout the body. These hormones work together to make sure the body functions correctly.
Damage to endocrine glands such as the pituitary, which makes the growth hormone, can slow a child’s growth and affect bones and height. Synthetic (man-made) growth hormone can treat the problem. The pituitary gland, located in the brain, is sometimes called “the master gland” because it controls other glands such as the thyroid, adrenals, ovaries (in females), and testes (in males).
In children, the most obvious sign of deficiency is the slowing of growth or height.
Other signs include:
Adults with growth and hormone deficiency may experience:
Ask your oncologist about your risks of developing late effects.
Inform your primary health care provider about your risks. Share a copy of your Survivorship Care Plan, which includes a treatment summary.
Have a yearly physical examination. The exam should include measurement of height and weight and assessment of puberty development and nutritional status.
Patients at risk for growth hormone deficiency should have this screening every six months until growth is completed.
If patients have signs and symptoms of poor growth, the health care provider may:
Treatment usually involves synthetic growth hormone over several years. The endocrinologist should provide information about how much growth is possible.
Reviewed: June 2018