A diagnosis of cancer can be devastating and even more so when the person being diagnosed is a child. According to the National Cancer Institute, while cancer in children is rare, it is the leading cause of death by disease past infancy among children in the United States.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Below are some of the most common childhood cancers and warning signs for each.
1. Leukemia - A disease of the bone marrow and blood, this is the most common form of childhood cancer, accounting for about 30 percent of all cancers in children. Leukemia can cause bone and joint pain, fatigue, weakness, pale skin, bleeding or bruising, fever, weight loss, and other symptoms. According to Bassem Razzouk, MD, Medical Director, Children’s Center for Blood Diseases and Cancer at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) occurs more commonly in children and accounts for about 80% of childhood leukemia. It’s also highly curable with cure rates of 90% or higher, when patients are treated on comprehensive pediatric clinical protocols, he added. “Treatment usually involves chemotherapy, and selected high-risk patients may require additional radiation therapy to the brain and/or spine, and stem cell transplantation,” said Dr. Razzouk.
2. Brain & spine tumors - The second most common cancer in children are tumors of the brain and central nervous system. These tumors can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, blurred or double vision, dizziness, seizures, trouble walking or handling objects, and other symptoms. Treatment involves surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
3. Neuroblastoma - This cancer starts in early forms of nerve cells found in a developing embryo or fetus. About 6 percent of childhood cancers are neuroblastomas. This type of cancer develops in infants and young children. Symptoms are abdominal swelling, bone pain, bruising and fever.
4. Lymphomas - Lymphomas start in cells of the immune system. They most often start in lymph nodes and other lymph tissues, like the tonsils or thymus. Symptoms can include weight loss, fever, night sweats, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes under the skin in the neck, armpit, or groin, and abdominal swelling. The two primary types of lymphoma are Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. “They are both highly curable usually with chemotherapy alone, and in selected cases, with additional radiation therapy, especially for patients with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,” said Dr. Razzouk.
If you are interested in talking with a cancer expert about pediatric cancers, contact Bassem Razzouk, MD, Medical Director, Children’s Center for Blood Diseases and Cancer at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, at (317) 338-HOPE (4673).