Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is a difficult experience, especially when it is a child who has been diagnosed. Regardless of the type or stage of cancer, the initial days of dealing with the news may be the most difficult that a family and a child endure.
According to the American Cancer Society, childhood cancers form a small percentage of all cancers diagnosed annually — they make up 1 percent of all cancer diagnoses. It is estimated that nearly 10,590 children, under 15 years of age, will be diagnosed with cancer this year.
Though there has been an increase in the number of children diagnosed with cancer, there has also been an increase in their lifespan. The five-year survival rate of 58 percent in the 1970s has now increased to over 80 percent, which is quite an achievement in the field of cancer care.
September is marked as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so let’s take that opportunity to look into the different types of childhood cancers.
Overview of Childhood Cancers
Oncologists and pediatricians opine that the types of cancers prevalent in children vary from those seen in adults. Statistics show that most types of children’s cancers have a better prognosis, especially because children rarely have other health complications, unlike adults.
On the flip side though, younger children might be more impacted by chemotherapy and radiation and may need to be under lifelong observation of side effects and recurrences.
Five most common childhood cancers:
The most common type of childhood cancer is leukemia, which makes up 30 percent of all cancer diagnoses in children. Among the types of leukemia, children are most often diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia and acute myelogenous leukemia. While there are very few known risk factors for leukemia in children, some genetic disorders like Down syndrome and Li-Fraumeni syndrome may be possible risks of developing leukemia. Excessive alcohol usage by pregnant women might also be a factor. Leukemia may be treated with a combination of options including chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
Tumors of the brain and spinal cord
These make up the second most common type of cancers in children and are seen to grow mostly in the brain stem. These tumors can cause vomiting, double vision, headaches, seizures and difficulty in walking. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and certain targeted drugs.
Known to start as early as in the fetal stage, this cancer typically develops before the age of 10. The tumor is mostly seen in the stomach and could also cause pain in the bones and a constant fever. Treatment options for neuroblastoma include immunotherapy, surgery and radiation and depend on the stage, age of the child and risk factors.
Also known as nephroblastoma, this condition can impact one or sometimes both the kidneys and is seen in children under the age of 6. Wilms tumor makes up nearly 5 percent of childhood cancers and presents symptoms like pain, nausea, fever and loss of appetite. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are the most common treatment options.
Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma:
Both types of lymphomas are seen in children and adults and start in cells called lymphocytes. They commonly start in the lymph nodes and tissues and can cause weight loss, fatigue and swelling of the nodes.
While a child’s cancer diagnosis can take a major toll on your mental and physical well-being, don’t give up hope and make sure you provide all the medical and emotional support you can to help your child battle this dreaded disease.
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What Are the Differences Between Cancers in Adults and Children? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-in-children/differences-adults-children.html
Key Statistics for Childhood Cancers. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-in-children/key-statistics.html