What you need to know about Childhood Cancer

Facts & Stats

Childhood Cancer refers a number of different cancer conditions that may affect children. These tumors may develop in any part of the body, including the brain and the spinal cord, lymph node systems, the blood, kidneys and any other tissue or organ. A very common form of cancer that affects children is leukemia. It starts in bone marrow and do not usually form any solid tumor. The effected cells disturb the other forms of cells within the bone marrow. This can prevent proper production of healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. The types of childhood cancers are many and each of them has unique statistics of occurrence.

Symptoms

Here are the main symptoms associated with childhood cancer.

  • Vomiting without nausea
  • A persisting case of nausea
  • Excessive bleeding, bruising or rash
  • Frequent, constant and persistent infections
  • Presence of a whitish color right behind the pupil
  • Persistent and recurring fevers of mysterious origin
  • Noticeable paleness or tiredness on a constant basis
  • Unexplained weight loss occurring on a continued basis
  • Changes of vision that occur rather suddenly and persist
  • Headaches accompanied frequently by early morning vomiting
  • Persistent pains and increased swelling in the joints, bones, legs or back
  • Formation of mass or lump, particularly in the neck, abdomen, pelvis, chest or the armpits

Stages

Childhood cancers work differently than cases where adults have cancers of the same body parts. For this reason, the doctors think about the staging of cancers differently than the way they would have done for adults. Here is a look at the different stages associated with all the types of childhood cancers.

  • In Stages 1 and 2, the tumor is essentially confined to the site of origin.
  • At Stage 3, the cancer starts to invade the neighboring sites and spread to the nearby lymph nodes.
  • During the Stage 4, the cancer starts spreading to the distant organs and lymph nodes.

Causes

The medical community is not exactly sure about what factors cause childhood cancers. Certain types of cancers have been associated with Down syndrome, a type of genetic disorder and some other types of inherited chromosomal and genetic abnormalities. A previous instance of radiation treatment is also believed to cause some forms of childhood cancers. However, environmental factors like an exposure to toxic and infectious materials are not related to the occurrence of childhood cancer. Since there are so many different types of childhood cancers, the medical experts strongly suspect that there are a wide range of factors at play here.

Diagnosis

The doctor can make use of different types of tests to see the presence of cancer as well as check out its extent of progression. The staging of the cancer is based on these tests. The tests may also be repeated numerous times to evaluate the progression of the condition. These are the tests that are mainly performed for diagnosing childhood cancer.

  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy
  • Bone marrow aspiration along with biopsy
  • Lumbar puncture or spinal tap
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scans
  • MRI scans
  • X-rays
  • Positron emission tomography or PET scans
  • Scans or radioisotope studies

Treatment

Surgeons and doctors work together with child life specialists, occupational and physical therapists, dietitians, counselors and social workers to come up with the best methods of treating a child cancer condition and administer post operative care. The main forms of treatment for childhood cancers are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, bone marrow transplantation and stem cell transplantation. The doctor can also use systemic therapies to resolve the condition. For instance, a medication may be administered by using an IV intravenous tube. Continual evaluation of the patient is necessary to make sure that extra doses are never administered to the patient.

Prevention

Since the exact causes of childhood cancers are not known, it is not possible for the children to adhere to lifestyle practices which may minimize the chances of cancer. It is however important to get the cancer conditions detected early so that they can be treated at the earliest instance. This also helps to make sure that there are minimal complications.