Types | Leukemia | Brain cancer | Osteosarcoma | Lymphoma | Other rare types | What to do?
The significance of spreading awareness on childhood cancer holds the same importance as finding ways to cure it. Although there have been a massive number of studies, awareness programs, and research on the topic, European countries and the US still have the highest number of cases of childhood cancer all around the world.
The reason for this is that childhood cancer is more of a genetic disease in comparison to cancer in adulthood. It means that while one of the causes of adult cancer is genes, the major ones include smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol and other harmful ingredients, and an inappropriate lifestyle.
The reason why there is an International Childhood Cancer day is that most of the parents seem to neglect the early cancer symptoms, which reduces its chances of successful treatment. Sometimes, a child might be born with a particular type of cancer, or develop in later years from birth till 20 years of age. However, sometimes, either the doctors overlook hidden/evident symptoms, or sometimes, it’s the parents who fail to understand the child’s deteriorating health.
The primary purpose of this article is to not only create awareness about the types of cancer in childhood, its symptoms, and treatment but also have more parents on board in spreading the word that might help someone somewhere who is struggling with childhood cancer.
Unlike adults, children develop only some specific types of cancer. Gaining knowledge about the types of pediatric cancer and symptoms help parents in its early diagnosis. The excellent news is that the death rate of children with cancer has decreased over the past years. Thanks to the knowledge, research, and expertise of oncologists around the world.
Sometimes, the doctors can increase the lifespan of a child with cancer by 2-5 years, while in most of the cases, it is cured via special medical treatments. However, even though cancer seems to be gone after successful treatments. There is always a moderate chance of its relapse at any point in life.
For now, let us first know the types of childhood cancer, its causes, and some tips for parents and family members to deal with it, both emotionally and physically.
Leukemia is one of the most common types of pediatric cancers in children below 15 years of age. It is the cancer of blood or bone marrow. White blood cells in our body help fight infections, but in Leukemia, the number of these cells increases to a great extent. These white blood cells do not function properly and, eventually, start making their way to the bone marrow, by not allowing healthy cells to grow and function.
Leukemia in childhood is more likely to have a successful treatment, mainly since its symptoms are quite evident. All that the parents and doctors need to do is keep a strict medical check and balance on kids who have higher chances of getting Leukemia, like:
- Someone with e genetic disorder like Down Syndrome.
- Anyone with a disturbed immune system.
- Someone who has a history of Leukemia in blood relation, especially siblings.
- Individuals who have been under a lot of screening or radiation for medical purposes.
Symptoms and treatment
If a child falls into either of the categories mentioned above, then it becomes essential for the immediate family members to look out for these Leukemia symptoms and not consider them as a routine illness.
- Extreme fatigue
- Joint pain
- Swelling and rashes
- Weakness and weight loss
- Headaches and seizures
- Frequently occurring infections
The most applied treatment of Leukemia is chemotherapy. The others include stem cell transplant and radiation therapy. Also, selecting the types of treatment for Leukemia depends on the age and the severity of the disease.
Brain cancer is the result of excessive growth of brain cells and is the second most common type of cancer in children. Although the cause of brain cancer in kids is still unknown, it is genetic in most cases. The number of kids with brain cancer is increasing by 15,000 each year.
Even after receiving a successful treatment of brain cancer by removing the tumor from the brain, the harsh side-effects and after-effects of the procedure make it difficult for the child to lead a healthy life. The reason for this is the treatments that mainly involve harmful radiation, which might cause speech delay, sight loss, or any other kind of a physical or mental flaw.
Symptoms and treatment
The symptoms of brain cancer might not be too harsh to be evident in the beginning; parents should always be considerate about them without assuming them as dramatic excuses by their child. They include:
Headaches, especially after waking up, during the sleep, or sudden movement of the head
- Frequent nausea
- Sudden vision issues
- Balance issues
- Weakness in the whole body, especially arms and legs
- Slow memory loss
Other than this, some kids might have behavior issues all of a sudden, like throwing tantrums and getting angry or irritated for no reason as the tumor triggers these conditions to a huge extent.
Radiation, chemotherapy, and drug therapy are some of the commonly used treatments for brain cancer.
Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that is mostly found in teenage boys. The cause of this type of cancer is the overgrowth of bone cells that sometimes also reach lungs and other bones.
The reason as to why Osteosarcoma is common in teenage years, boys mostly, is that it usually occurs during the growth spurt. A child with bone cancer might be unusually tall due to the excessive growth of bone cells.
Symptoms and treatment
Unlike the symptoms in other types of cancers, the signs that bone cancer indicate are easy to ignore by both parents and kids. From the hormonal changes to the growth spurt in the teenage years, kids consider these symptoms to be healthy as they’re a part of the process.
However, this is what this article is all about i.e., to create awareness and make parents more aware of cancer symptoms and the importance of acknowledging them as early as possible. Some of the symptoms of Osteosarcoma are
- Pain in arms and legs, sometimes with swelling
- Shooting pain during sleep, especially below and above the knee area
- Swelling where the excessive build-up of bone cells takes place
The child also experiences gradual limping that might result in a permanent disability because of negligence by both the child and parents.
Surgery is the best treatment for treating bone cancer, while in some cases, chemotherapy is also used alongside removing the tumor from the affected areas.
Lymphoma is a type of cancer in which the growth of lymphocytes gets out of control, cells of the immune system that fight infections. There are two types of lymphomas:
- Hodgkin lymphoma in which there is swelling of the lymph nodes, which is mostly painless.
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the one in which the overgrowth of lymphocytes takes place in lymphatic tissues.
Although children can also have Hodgkin lymphoma, it is more common in adults than in kids. Whereas, non-Hodgkin lymphoma affects children of age below 15 who have a weak immune system or who have been under harmful radiations in the past for some reason.
However, it is rare for children under three years of age to develop this type of cancer. There are no other causes of lymphoma in kids confirmed by specialists, like an unsuitable lifestyle.
Symptoms and treatment
Again, the symptoms of lymphoma in kids are quite general to be put into special attention. Most of the time, neither the children can inform parents about their problems, nor the parents acknowledge the symptoms to result in something as chronic as cancer. Some of them include:
- A weird pattern of occurrences of fever, it frequently comes and goes out of nowhere.
- Rapid weight loss.
- Difficulty in breathing due to the swollen lymph nodes.
- Swelling in abdomen or chest because sometimes the cells grow too large that they become evident enough to be seen.
Although chemotherapy is mostly used treatment for treating lymphoma in kids, its side-effects are way too harsh for a child to bear. Hence, parents must discuss everything in detail before opting for anything to remain fully prepared.
- Spinal cord tumors
- Wilms tumor
- Liver tumors
- Skin cancer
Emotional support for parents/child with cancer
Cancer is no joke. It is not a disease that comes, causes pain, and leaves in some time via harmless treatment. From the day the child is diagnosed with cancer to meeting the doctors, treatment, and its after-effects, everything is greatly traumatizing for both the child and his/her parents.
If your child is below three years of age, then having a conversation might not be able a favorable option. All you need to do as a parent is to caress the child. Remain strong in front and from the inside, cuddle more often, co-sleep, and spend as much time with the child as possible.
However, it becomes relatively tough to handle a child from 4-10 years of age as they are sensible enough to sense danger and worries surrounding them. Even the sight of a doctor, hospital, or machinery makes them anxious, which results in harsh reactions.
Talking helps a lot with these kids where the parents are continuously there to help them heal from physical and emotional stress.
For teenagers, it is vital to inform everything from the beginning to make them prepared for what’s coming ahead. It is not easy at all, outbursts and breakdowns are very common to happen, however, with your constant support and headstrong determination, they eventually come out stronger and fight with the disease with a powerful strength of mind.
Cancer statistics in Children
- Cancer is still the leading cause of death in children from birth to 20 years of age.
- Around 300,000 childhood cancer cases are reported each year around the world.
- Brain cancer and Leukemia are two of the most common types of childhood cancers.
- There is no such prevention of childhood cancer as the causes are mostly genetic.
- Childhood cancer is treated only at specialized centers with expert pediatric support.
- 80% of children have successful treatment of cancer.
What to do on International Childhood Cancer Day?
Not only parents but everyone must try and gain knowledge about childhood cancer. Read articles, visit centers and hospitals that treat disease, meet cancer survivors, hear out their stories, lend support (financial, emotional, physical), donate, and create maximum awareness by sharing all the information among friends and family. We need to become more active in this regard because the chances of treating cancer with a higher success rate are possible when the symptoms are correctly diagnosed at the right time.
Get involved, help bring change, and make a difference because together, we can do it!