Even the thought of a child being diagnosed with any type of cancer can be a heartrending one. However pediatric cancers are a reality, even if a rare one.
There are only about 1 to 2 children per ten thousand children that develop cancer in the United States each year; however cancers among kids are completely unpredictable and unpreventable, unlike adult cancers.
In recent times, the survival rate for pediatric cancers has improved significantly and so parents who have to receive his unwelcome news can be reassured by the fact that likely prognoses for these cancers are better than ever before.
The survival rates of children diagnosed with cancer are 79.0% as of 2003 and this owes itself to better and improved treatments.
The Most Common Childhood Cancers
Among the pediatric, about one third of all cases are blood cancers. The second most common type of pediatric cancers are those of the brain and other nervous system and along with leukemias, they account for half of all childhood tumors.
The other most common cancers among children below the age of 15 are neuroblastoma, Wilms tumor, lymphoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, retinoblastoma and bone cancers.
1. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
This is the most common type of pediatric cancer. The symptoms could include weight loss, weakness and fever, joint and bone pain and bleeding. Acute leukemia is the sort that progresses swiftly but the chances of recovery are quite good. Treatment protocols include chemotherapy and radiation as well as other drug therapy. In some cases blood stem cell and bone marrow transplants may also be carried out.
2. Tumors of the brain and nervous system
These are the second most common pediatric cancers. The symptoms include headaches, behavior or personality changes, nausea and vomiting, weakness of the muscles, depression, vision problems or speech problems and seizures. The treatments for brain tumors in children are often different from those given to adults because of the long term side effects.
Lymphomas are cancers that start in the lymphatic system of the body or the lymph nodes or they could begin in the thymus or tonsils. Through the lymphatic system it can spread to other organs or the bone marrow. Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or the groin, weakness, fever and soaking night sweating. There could also be unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain or fullness and coughing or chest pain.
Neuroblastoma accounts for about 7% of pediatric cancers and is usually seen to occur in very young children or infants. It starts in the nerve cells of the developing fetus or embryo. The main warning signs of this disease is swelling of the belly. There can also be fever and bone pain with this cancer.
5. Wilms Tumor
It is a cancer that starts in one or both kidneys and accounts of 5% of pediatric cancers. This is again a cancer that is seen mostly in very young children below the age of 3 and rarely do children above the age of 6 get diagnosed with Wilms Tumor. A lump or swelling in the abdominal area is usually the first and often the only symptom.