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Certain treatments for childhood cancers can cause lung and breathing problems. You can take steps to protect and promote your lung health.
You can help prevent lung conditions and ensure problems are found and treated early.
The lungs transfer oxygen from the air to the blood, where it is circulated to the body tissues. The lungs also remove carbon dioxide, a waste product made by the body’s cells.
To reach the blood, oxygen must move through tiny air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs and into tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that surround each air sac.
Treatments that can lead to lung damage include some chemotherapy drugs, radiation, surgery, and complications of hematopoietic cell transplant (also known as bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant). They can damage tiny air sacs and blood vessels in the lung. Therapies can also cause swelling of air passages and increased mucus production because of irritation or infection.
Transplant patients with graft versus host disease are at risk.
Drugs called anthracyclines can damage the heart and may contribute to lung problems. This risk increases if patients received anthracyclines along with chemotherapy and radiation that causes lung problems.
Pulmonary function tests including DLCO and spirometry may show lung problems that may not be apparent during a regular examination.
It is helpful to have these tests done at least once at least 2 years after completing cancer treatment to find out if there are any problems. Based on the results, your provider can decide if further testing is needed.
For more information, visit Children’s Oncology Group’s Pulmonary Health after Cancer Treatment.
Reviewed: May 2020