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Treatment for childhood cancer can sometimes cause scarring and ongoing problems in the bowel or other parts of the digestive system. The digestive system is also called the gastrointestinal system. It is made up of the organs that break down food for growth and energy.
Certain treatments for childhood cancer increase risk for digestive problems. Mainly, they are surgery involving the abdomen or pelvis and radiation to the neck, chest, abdomen, or pelvis.
Other factors that raise risk for digestive problems include:
The types of problems that can arise depend on the location of surgery, the radiation treatment field, and the radiation dose. Digestive system problems that can occur include:
Symptoms of digestive system problems include:
See your doctor if you develop any of these symptoms. If symptoms come on quickly or are severe, call your doctor right away. You may need to be evaluated.
Survivors at risk for digestive problems and those who are having digestive problems should be screening every year at their annual physical examination for problems that affect the digestive system involves an annual physical examination by a qualified health care professional. Blood tests, x-rays, and testing for small amounts of blood in the stool are sometimes needed. If gallstones or gallbladder problems are suspected, you might need an ultrasound. If your colon or esophagus needs to be checked, you might have a colonoscopy or endoscopy.
You can lower your risk for digestive system problems by keeping a healthy lifestyle.
Follow these tips to eat right. For more information, see the related Health Link: "Eating Right and Being Active after Childhood Cancer."
Avoid Habits that Cause Cancer
Heavy drinkers, especially those who use tobacco, have a higher risk for cancer and other digestive system problems. Follow these rules to help keep your risk down.