Background: Curative therapy for childhood cancer has dramatically improved over past decades. Therapeutic radiation has been instrumental in this success. Unfortunately, irradiation is associated with untoward effects, including stroke and other cerebrovascular disease (CVD). The Children's Oncology Group (COG) has developed guidelines for screening survivors at risk for persistent or late sequelae of cancer therapy.
Objectives: This review summarizes the pathophysiology and relevant manifestations of radiation-induced CVD and outlines the specific patient groups at risk for early-onset stroke. The reader will be alerted to the availability of the COG recommendations for monitoring, and, when applicable, specific screening and treatment recommendations will be highlighted.
Methods: A multidisciplinary task force critically reviewed the existing literature and scored the evidence to establish the current COG guidelines for monitoring health of survivors treated with head and neck irradiation.
Results: Previous head and neck exposure to therapeutic radiation is associated with latent CVD and increased risk for stroke in some patient groups. Common manifestations of radiation-induced CVD includes steno-occlusive disease, moyamoya, aneurysm, mineralizing microangiopathy, vascular malformations, and strokelike migraines.
Conclusion: Risk for stroke is increased in survivors of pediatric CNS tumors, Hodgkin lymphoma, and acute lymphoblastic leukemia who received radiation to the brain and/or neck. As the population of survivors ages, vigilance for stroke and cerebrovascular disease needs to continue based on specific exposures during curative cancer therapy.