Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death from disease in childhood. Each year, many children between birth and the age of 18 are diagnosed with cancer.
The signs and symptoms of cancer in children could be very nonspecific leading to delayed diagnosis. There are certain red flags that can increase the index of suspicion and can help in making the diagnosis sooner than later.
Dr Vikas Dua, Additional Director & HOD, Pediatric Hematology Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram discusses about the top four childhood cancers and the signs and symptoms associated with them.
Leukemia is the most common cancers observed in children. It commonly occurs in children between the ages of 2-4 years. Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow. Three out of four childhood leukemia cases are Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). The rest are Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
Symptoms of leukemia
Bone and joint pain
Brain tumors and other nervous system tumors are the second most common cancer seen in pediatric age group. Brain tumors are of many types and the outlook and treatment for each varies. In regard with brain tumors in children, it starts in the lower parts of the brain, such as the cerebellum or brain stem. Although brain tumors in children is typically different from that of brain tumors of adults, many of the symptoms remain the same.
Symptoms of brain tumors
Headaches (often with early morning vomiting) e Dizziness e Balance problems e Vision, hearing or speech problems
Neuroblastoma arises from immature nerve cells in infants and young children. Mainly found in children younger than age of 5 years, this disease often begins in the adrenal glands.
Symptoms of neuroblastoma
Impaired ability to walk
Change in eyes (droopy eyelids, bulging,)
Pain in different and various locations of the body
High blood pressure Lymphoma starts in certain cells of the immune system called lymphocytes.
This cancer affects lymph nodes and other lymph tissues, like the tonsils or thymus. These can also affect bone marrow as well as organs and can cause varied symptoms depending on where the cancer is growing.
Sometimes called Hodgkin disease, is rare in children younger than 5 years of age. This type of cancer is similar in both children and adults, including the types of treatment that works best.
More likely to occur in younger children than Hodgkin lymphoma, but still rare in children younger than age group of 3. The most common types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma vary in children and adults. Often these cancers grow quickly which requires severe treatment, but they also tend to respond better to treatment than most non-Hodgkin lymphomas in adults.
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Symptoms of lymphoma
Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin