Youth Cancer

Steroid Treatment

We're not talking about the illegal, anabolic type that bodybuilders use, we're talking about the kind used in cancer treatment – synthetic derivatives of the natural steroid cortisol.

Common steroids used in cancer treatment are hydrocortisone, dexamethasone, methylprednisolone and prednisone.

Steroids have many purposes in cancer treatment
  • to control nausea and vomiting
  • to make chemotherapy more effective
  • to reduce allergic reactions to certain chemotherapy drugs
  • to help headaches caused by brain tumours
  • to improve appetite

In these situations steroids are usually given only for short periods of time, so the likelihood of common side effects is reduced.


Common side effects

Weight gain

  • Fullness in your cheeks or what is sometimes called “moon face” is one effect of steroids. Another is the accumulation of fatty tissue at the back of your neck, creating a ‘hump’ of sorts.
But never fear – this side effect will last only as long as you are taking steroids. They will not change your appearance forever.

Mood swings

  • Steroids can make it harder to sleep, which may cause irritability. Try taking your steroids early in the day to not disrupt your sleep patterns.

Hair Growth

  • Steroids can sometimes make hair grow in unusual places. This is especially cruel for girls. You may experience hair growth on your face, usually along your cheekbone, but trust us – it will go away.

Skin Problems

  • Steroids sometimes make your skin sort of thin, causing you to bruise more easily. And you might develop acne on your face or other parts of your body.