Every year, over 3 lakh children are diagnosed with Cancer all over the world. In India, nearly more than 50,000 new childhood cancer cases occur every year. In the west, the survival rate is as high as 80-90% in some cancers. With a conservative estimate of 70% survival rate, many survivors are added to the population every year. Only specially-trained doctors have the knowledge and experience to properly treat them. The age group of 0-14 is considered a pediatric age group, while some centers also consider ages up to 18 years.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It is celebrated entire the month of September to raise awareness about childhood cancer which remains the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 14.
Cancer occurs in people of all ages including children. Common adult cancers (lung, breast, colon, and others) rarely occur in children or adolescents. Childhood cancers tend to be more aggressive than adult cancers. However, cancer in children is rare and is curable if detected early and treated effectively.
Types of childhood cancer
- Brain Cancers
- Lymphoma (Hodgkins and Non Hodgkins)
- Leukaemia (Blood Cancer)
- Retinoblastoma (Eye Cancer)
- Rhabdoid Tumors
- Sarcomas (Soft tissue Cancer)
- Wilms Tumor (Kidney Cancer)
- Hepatoblastoma (Liver Cancer)
- Osteosarcoma (bone Cancer)
- Neuroblastoma (Nerve Cancer)
Symptoms of Childhood Cancer
Signs and symptoms of cancer are easily noticeable in adults but in children, it is difficult to understand and observe any signs and symptoms under all the regular play accidents, bruises, or any common illnesses. It is difficult to detect cancer in children as they are rare compared to adults.
- Continued, unexplained weight loss
- Headaches, often with early morning vomiting
- Increased swelling or persistent pain in the bones, joints, back, or legs
- Lump or mass, especially in the abdomen, neck, chest, pelvis, or armpits
- Development of a whitish appearance in the pupil of the eye or changes in the vision
- Recurrent fevers not caused by infections
- Excessive bruising or bleeding (often sudden)
- Noticeable paleness or prolonged tiredness
Childhood cancers do not have a known cause. Many studies have shown how any changes or mutations in the DNA inside our cells can contribute to the production of cancer cells. Studies show that 5-10 % of childhood cancers are caused due to genetic factors which can be inherited or acquired.
Common treatments include: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and stem cell transplant, the Pediatric Oncology team of the hospital will detail the protocol for the specific cancer type and the stage.
After the treatment is completed, follow-up is essential to monitor for late effects. The after-effects are the complications of cancer therapy ranging from impaired growth and development, neurocognitive and psychosocial deficits, cardiopulmonary problems, endocrine organ dysfunction, gastrointestinal problems, and secondary malignancies. Not every survivor experiences the after-effects. Family support, community support, and medical support can make their lives easy and comfortable.