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Childhood Chemotherapy Side Effects Common

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When a child has cancer, the only thing a parent thinks of is how to get that child well again.

But a new study shows that the treatments used to fight childhood cancer may cause them serious health problems as they grow older.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the long-term side effects of children's cancer treatments are much more common than doctors had thought.

When cancer survivors grow up three out of four have serious health problems, like heart attacks and strokes.

They face additional cancers, like breast and thyroid cancer.

Some also go through menopause early and need major joint replacement surgery.

"These patients, because they're not grown, because they're not fully developed, are more vulnerable to drugs and radiation," said Dr. Lisa Killer of Dana-Farber Children's Hospital.

Researchers say the problems generally occur in a survivor's 20s or 30s.

Many of them are so serious that slightly less than half of the survivors will actually die as a result.

Beth Owens, who is now 33-years-old, received chemotherapy when she was one and a half. Today, she's paying a price.

"The last bone density test, they actually told me I had the bones of a 70 year old woman," said Owens.

But parents say despite the problems, the risks of treatment are worth it.

Seven year old Caroline Lane has bone cancer. She's struggled through chemotherapy every other week now for almost a year.

"We know that it's difficult and it will take it's toll in some ways but this is what we have to do to have our daughter survive," said Kelly Lane, Caroline's mother. "And we know she will."

"I'm doing okay you know, they're giving me the chemo and I'm doing better," said Caroline.

The good news is 80 percent of the children with cancer become long term survivors now.

And the long term effects are getting more treatable thanks to advances in medicine and nutrition.