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About Childhood Cancer

Most childhood cancers fall into one of several specific types, as listed in the navigation links to the left. Common adult cancers (lung, breast, colon, and others) rarely occur in children or adolescents. Childhood cancers tend to be more aggressive than adult cancers.

Childhood cancers are rare, and only specially-trained doctors have the knowledge and experience to properly treat them. In fact, your child needs to be treated by a multidisciplinary team of pediatric oncology physicians and specialists. The team includes the primary care physician, pediatric surgical sub-specialists, radiation oncologists, pediatric medical oncologists/hematologists, rehabilitation specialists, pediatric nurse specialists, social workers, and others. This approach ensures that your child will receive the treatment, supportive care, and rehabilitation therapies that will give him or her, the best chance at not only survival, but a good quality of life. Childhood cancer multidisciplinary teams are found at specific institutions, most of which are listed at the bottom of this page. Your primary care physician should refer you to one of these institutions. At these pediatric cancer centers, clinical trials are available for most types of cancer that occur in children and adolescents. For information on available clinical trials, these can be found at www.clinicaltrials.gov

Types of Childhood Cancers

Click on the links below to learn about each childhood cancer.


Additional Websites on Types of Childhood Cancers

The following web sites are recommended because they have good descriptions of the different types of childhood cancers and of their treatments.

National Cancer Institute (NCI): The NCI’s web site lists the treatment summaries, know as PDQs, for childhood cancers at the page below. Treatment summaries describe in detail each childhood cancer and its treatment in patient, health professional, and Spanish versions. These summaries are updated regularly and are arguably the standard source of information for cancer in the U.S. ,

St. Jude Research Hospital: Disease descriptions and treatment options.

Children’s Oncology Group (COG): COG’s public web site; information about childhood cancers and treatment.

Statistics

  • Each day in the U.S., approximately 46 children are diagnosed with cancer.
  • In the early 1950s, less than 10 percent of childhood cancer patients could be cured. Today, some forms of childhood cancer have cure rates over 80%.
  • In 80% of cases, a child‟s cancer diagnosis is delayed until the disease is very advanced and has spread to other parts of the body. As a stark comparison, this only occurs in 20% of adult cancer cases.
  • Cancer is the leading cause of death in Americans under age 20.
  • The average length of treatment for children, from initial diagnosis to cure or remission, is three years.
  • Among the 12 major types, Leukemias (cancer in the blood) and brain tumors account for more than half of all cases.
  • The median age at diagnosis is six years old.

What to Look For

  • Continued, unexplained weight loss
  • Headaches, often with early morning vomiting
  • Increased swelling or persistent pain in bones, joints, back, or legs
  • Lump or mass, especially in the abdomen, neck, chest, pelvis, or armpits
  • Development of excessive bruising, bleeding, or rash
  • Constant infections
  • A whitish color behind the pupil
  • Nausea which persists or vomiting without nausea
  • Constant fatigue or noticeable paleness
  • Eye or vision changes which occur suddenly and persist
  • Recurrent or persistent fevers of unknown origin

Source: Childhood Cancer, A Parent’s Guide to Solid Tumors by Nancy Keene

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