The types of
cancers that develop in children are often different from the types that develop in adults. Most adult cancers are linked to lifestyle-related risk factors or other environmental risk factors that lead to DNA damage over time. The causes of most childhood cancers are not known. They are not caused by choices or environmental factors and only a small number of childhood cancers are caused by an inherited mutation.
Even when kids have a cancer type that adults get too, it is often treated differently. In addition, children have their own emotional needs that must be taken into consideration so they can get the best care.
The most common childhood cancer is leukemia. There are several types of leukemia, including acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which start in the bone marrow or blood. Leukemia may cause bone and joint pain, fatigue, weakness, pale skin, bleeding or bruising, fever, weight loss, and other symptoms. Other cancer types that can occur in children include:
Brain and other central nervous system tumors
(a type of kidney cancer)
Lymphoma (including both
(a cancer that starts in muscle cells)
(a type of eye cancer)
Bone cancer (including
Children can also develop other types of cancer. Rarely, these can include cancers that are much more common in adults.
Other signs and symptoms of cancer in children include an unusual lump or swelling, an ongoing pain in one area of the body, limping, frequent headaches (often with vomiting), and sudden eye or vision changes.
An estimated 10,590 children under age 15 in the US will be diagnosed with cancer in 2018. Most of them will be treated at a pediatric medical center by a team of experts in pediatric oncology. Most pediatric centers also have psychologists, social workers, nutritionists, therapists, educators, and other specialists who can support the entire family.
Coping with cancer diagnosis and treatment is different for every child. Talk with the health care team about what works best for your child’s age group. Parents also know what works bests for their child and can share their ideas with the health care team to create a plan for helping them.
Here are some basic ideas to help children of all ages: