Childhood Cancer

Overview

Although cancers in children are rare compared to cancers in adults, parents should know the signs and symptoms to look for and what to do if your child develops one of the 12 major types of cancer that can occur in childhood.

Leukemias are the most common childhood cancers, followed by brain cancers. Lymphomas are the third most common types of cancers in children. As children mature into their teenage years, they are at increased risk of developing osteosarcomas (bone cancers).

Types

These are various types of childhood cancers:

Leukemias — These are cancers that arise in bone marrow and tissues that produce blood cells. The most common type of leukemia in children is acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, which arises in cells in the bone marrow. Another common type is acute myelogenous leukemia, or AML, a cancer of myeloid blood cells produced in bone marrow. Common signs of leukemia include bone and joint pain, bleeding, fever, and weakness. See Childhood Leukemia for more information.

Brain and central nervous system tumors — The most common types of brain cancers are called gliomas, which arise from glial cells in the brain and spinal cord. Signs include blurred or double vision, dizziness, and trouble walking.

Lymphomas— Lymphomas are cancers that arise in lymph tissue in the body’s immune system. Two major types are Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which affects lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, and groin; and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which affects lymph nodes deep within the body. Signs include swelling of the glands in the neck, armpits, and groin.

Sarcomas — These cancerous tumors occur in bones and soft tissue, such as muscle. Osteosarcomas are common types of bone cancers that grow in legs and arms, close to joints. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a soft-tissue cancer found in muscles of the head, neck, arms, and legs. Signs include pain and a lump or swelling.

Liver cancers — The most common liver cancer in children is hepatoblastoma, a very rare cancer that most often affects children in the first 18 months of life. Signs include a painless lump, swelling, or pain in the abdomen and unexplained weight loss.

Kidney cancers — Wilm’s tumor can occur in one or both kidneys. A type of sarcoma called clear cell sarcoma can also occur in the kidneys of children. Signs include a lump, swelling, or pain in the abdomen.

Other childhood cancers — Retinoblastoma is a cancer of the retina, a thin membrane at the back of the eye. Germ cell tumors can arise in the testes, ovaries, and at the bottom of the spine, as well as in the chest, abdomen, and middle of the brain. Children with retinoblastoma may have no symptoms or a white pupil that does not reflect light. Signs of germ cell tumors include a lump, swelling, or mass that can be felt or seen.

 

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