When you hear the word "steroid" you may immediately think of muscle-bound body builders and the health risks they incur from abusing anabolic steroids — drugs that were originally intended for people with growth disorders, low levels of testosterone, and other health conditions.
If your child has been prescribed steroids for cancer, rest assured that he or she will not be taking anabolic steroids, but rather corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are made from a naturally occurring steroid in the body called cortisol.
Cortisol is a hormone (like testosterone or estrogen) that can have therapeutic effects on the body. Synthetic versions of the hormone — including cortisone, hydrocortisone, prednisone, and methylprednisolone and dexamethasone — are prescribed to help:
Some kids also find that taking steroids helps ease sleeping and eating problems, and just lets them feel better overall.
Steroids are sometimes taken by injection or through an Intravenous (IV), but also can be swallowed in pill or liquid form or applied as a cream.
As with many medications, side affects can be associated with steroids. Before your child begins taking steroids, ask your doctor what to expect. This way, you can plan ahead for any unsettling symptoms or adverse reactions, should they occur.
Temporary side effects may include:
Less common side effects include bruising more easily, difficulty fighting infections, acne flare-ups, and increased facial hair.
A child who develops several of these symptoms may have a condition called Cushing syndrome. Though not serious, Cushing syndrome can be distressing, especially for girls.
Symptoms may subside with changes to the way your child takes the medications; talk to your doctor about this.
Chances are, you and your child will probably find that any side effects are overshadowed by the benefits of the treatment, but check with your doctor about ways to make them easier to live with. And remember, most side effects are only temporary. Once treatment stops, side effects will, too.
Whether your child is on steroids for a week or months, it's important to always follow the recommended guidelines, and check first with a doctor before making any changes to treatment (for example, ask a doctor before taking the medicine at night if your child has been regularly taking it in the morning). Also, encourage your child to let you know about any adverse reactions during or after a steroid treatment.
More tips for safely taking steroids:
If you have any questions during your child's steroid treatment, speak with your doctor.
Reviewed by: Christopher N. Frantz, MD
Date reviewed: October 2012
|CureSearch for Children's Cancer CureSearch for Children's Cancer supports and sponsors research and treatment for childhood cancers.|
|American Cancer Society The American Cancer Society is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy, and service. Call:(800) ACS-2345|
|Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer A unique foundation that evolved from a young cancer patient's front-yard lemonade stand to a nationwide fundraising movement to find a cure for pediatric cancer.|
|National Cancer Institute (NCI) NCI provides detailed information about cancer research, various kinds of cancer, and living with cancer. Call: (800) 4-CANCER|
|Definition: Corticosteroids Not all steroids are the bad, muscle-building kind that some athletes take illegally.|
|Steroids and Cancer Treatment If your doctor prescribed steroids as part of your treatment for an illness, don't worry. It's not the illegal, doping scandal kind of steroid. Get the details in this article for teens.|
|Caring for a Seriously Ill Child Taking care of a chronically ill child is one of the most draining and difficult tasks a parent can face. But support groups, social workers, and family friends often can help.|
|Steroids Get the facts about steroids, their side effects, and what can drive kids to try them. Being aware of the kinds of pressures kids deal with in sports can help you make sure that your child isn't at risk.|
|Radiation Therapy Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, irradiation, or X-ray therapy, is one of the most common forms of cancer treatment.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.