Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells. The infected cells are different from healthy cells in terms of shape and functioning. Cancer in children is different from cancer in adults. In children, cancer is as a result of DNA changes occurring early while in adults, environmental risk factors and lifestyle are the possible causes.
Cancer in children is hard to recognize because it’s signs and symptoms are similar to those of other childhood illness. Due to late treatment since many parents get to know their child has cancer when it is too late, it is the second leading cause of death to children below 15 years. Cancer in children isn’t common but whenever your child has any of the symptoms of cancer you should visit the doctor for screening and advise.
There are different types of cancer. They all have varying causes and symptoms. Childhood cancer has a high rate of successful treatment because children can tolerate more intensive therapy. Here are some of the common types of cancer in children and their symptoms.
- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
Leukemia is blood cancer that develops in the bone marrow. More than 34% of all children with cancer have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. It is more common in males than females and occurs in the age of 2 to 4 years. It begins in the bone marrow and then spreads to the blood and body organs. The common symptoms of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia include:
- Bone and joint pain
- Weight loss
Chemotherapy drugs are used to treat Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. To avoid recurring Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia after successive treatment cranial radiation therapy and intrathecal chemotherapy are used to remove the cancerous cells that may have moved to the CNS.
- Brain Tumor
About 27% of childhood cancer are nervous system tumors. There are different types of brain tumor each having different causes, symptoms, and treatment. Most childhood brain tumors start at the lower part of the brain. There are some common symptoms in the different types of childhood brain tumors. Brain tumor cause pressure on the brain causing the following symptoms
- Balance problems
- Frequent vomiting
- Hearing, vision and speech problems.
Brain tumor treatment has progressed since the last decade. The available brain tumor treatments include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and neurosurgery.
- Neuroblastoma (NBL) and Ganglioneuroblastoma
This cancerous tumor begins in the nerves of an infant. It is common in children under 5. Neuroblastoma starts developing in the abdomen and sometimes in the nerve tissue in the neck. The cancerous cells metastasize to other body parts such as the liver, lymph nodes, bones, and bone marrow. It is common in males than in females. Neuroblastoma and Ganglioneuroblastoma common symptoms include:
- High blood pressure
- Pain in various parts of the body
- Diarrhea caused by substances produced by the tumor
- Impaired ability to walk
- Bone pain
- Unexplained fever
- An enlarged lymph node of the neck
- Droopy eyelids and other changes in the eye.
Neuroblastoma treatment can include surgery, chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, immunotherapy, MIBG Therapy, and biologic therapy.
- Wilms Tumor
Wilms Tumor is the most common pediatric kidney cancer. It usually forms on one kidney but sometimes on both. Most of the Wilms Tumor victims are between 3 to 4 years old. The tumor spreads to other body organs such as lungs and the lymph nodes. The common symptoms of Wilms Tumor include:
- Lump or swelling on the belly
- Poor appetite
- High blood pressure
- Weakness and tiredness
- Blood in urine
- Abdominal pains
There are many treatment options available making Wilms Tumor highly treatable. Surgery, chemotherapy, and stem cell transplant.
It starts in the cells of the immune system. It affects lymph tissues and lymph nodes like the thymus and tonsils. It can also affect other body organs and bone marrow. It has different symptoms depending on where it is developing. There are two types of lymphoma:
The Hodgkin Lymphoma occurs in both adult and children. Treatment methods are also the same.
The non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is common in children below the age of 5 years. It develops quickly and requires intensive treatment. It is easy to treat compared to the Hodgkin Lymphoma in adults.
The common symptoms of lymphoma include:
- Swollen glands in the groin, armpit or neck
- Weight loss
- Weakness on the legs
- Slowly growing numb at the site of the tumor
- Belly pain
- Decreased appetite
- Difficulty in breathing
- Obstructions in passing urine.
Chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, targeted therapy, surgery, and radiation therapy are the available treatment option. The best treatment option depends on the type of lymphoma treated.
Osteosarcoma is aggressive bone cancer. 2% of children with cancer are victims of Osteosarcoma. It is common in teens and affects the large bones of the legs or arms. 42% of this tumor occurs in the femur and can also occur in the skull, tibia, jaw, humerus, and pelvis. The common symptom of Osteosarcoma include:
- Joint and bone pain
- Swelling near a bone
- Bone injury for no reason
Many children fail to have early treatment of this disease since its symptoms are easily mistaken for other health issues such as sporting injuries. The available treatment options include chemotherapy, limb salvage surgery, radiation therapy, and amputation. Before spreading the disease has a survival rate of 60% to 80% and 15% to 30% after metastasizing. When identified on time, and treatment administered on time the survival rate is very high.
The survival rate for pediatric cancers is improving as more research and studies on the causes and treatment are being conducted. Even if your child has any of the above symptoms, make sure to visit your family doctor for a diagnosis.
The common symptoms of pediatric cancer include unexplained bleeding, feeling tired, seizures, headache, bruising, difficulty in breathing, back pain, abdominal pain, sudden weight loss, change in the appearance of the eye, vision changes and ongoing pain in one area.
Cancer can be difficult to identify by solely relying on the above symptoms. You should regularly visit your physician to have your child examined. Cancer can lead to death if not recognized and treated on time. Take your child to your family doctor for a further examination in case your child is suffering from any of the above symptoms.