What is Childhood Cancer?

Cancer is a leading cause of death for children and adolescents. Cancer can affect any organ or tissue in a child’s body, including the blood and lymph node systems, the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system), kidneys, and other organs and tissues.

The cancers that most commonly affect children differ from those that affect adults. The following are the most prevalent cancers in children:

• Leukemia

• Brain and spinal cord tumors

• Neuroblastoma

• Wilms tumor

• Lymphoma (including both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin)

• Rhabdomyosarcoma

• Retinoblastoma

• Bone cancer (including osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma)

Most of the time, the cause of childhood cancers is unknown. Even if they develop in the same place of the body, childhood cancers can behave very differently than adult cancers.

Cancer develops when healthy cells grow out of control. A mass of cancer cells may form, which is referred to as a “tumor”.

Tumors can either be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumors tend to grow slowly and do not spread. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, grow rapidly, invade & destroy normal tissues and can spread throughout the body.

It is difficult to detect as malignancies may present similarly to other childhood illnesses. The following symptoms, if found, should prompt the parents to bring the child for a consult:

• Unexplained pallor (paleness)

• Increased tendency to bruise

• Unexplained localized pain or limping

• Unusual mass or swelling

• Frequent headaches with vomiting

• Sudden eye or visual changes

• Sudden or progressive weight loss


To provide suitable therapy for the nature and extent of the condition, an accurate diagnosis is required. Chemotherapy, surgery, and/or radiotherapy are common treatments. Children also require specific attention for their continuous physical and cognitive development, as well as their nutritional state, which requires the involvement of a multidisciplinary team.

Palliative care eliminates cancer-related symptoms and enhances patients’ and their families’ quality of life. Although not all children with cancer can be cured, everyone can find comfort from their suffering. Whether or not a child receives curative therapy, pediatric palliative care is considered a critical component of comprehensive care, beginning when the illness is identified and continuing throughout treatment and care.

In this modern age of information, it is incredibly difficult to keep a cancer diagnosis from our children. Instead, when a child is diagnosed with cancer, it may be a right opportunity to educate our children about the science of human diseases. Furthermore, vital lessons on personal hygiene, nutrition, and general health awareness could be instilled in the process. When in doubt, parents should seek clarification from professionals such as their primary pediatric oncologists. Cancers in children are not always treated the same way they are in adults. Pediatric oncology is a medical specialty that deals with the treatment of cancer in children. It’s crucial to know that this knowledge exists and that many pediatric cancers can be treated successfully.

Schedule an appointment with Medgate’s specialist doctors to get guidance on any health concerns of your child.