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Front Page » August 22, 2013 » Focus on Health » Recognizing the signs of childhood cancere
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Recognizing the signs of childhood cancere

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Childhood cancers are rare, but many parents still feel it is their duty to learn about childhood cancers in an effort to protect their children and recognize any potential red flags that may be indicative of a problem.

Observation is essential when looking for signs of childhood cancers. According to the Pediatric Oncology Resource Center, the odds of a child developing cancer before the age of 19 are roughly 1 in 330. But parents still must watch for warning signs of childhood cancers, as parents know their youngsters better than anyone, including the children's pediatricians, and are therefore the first line of defense against this potentially deadly disease. The following are some of the more common childhood cancers and their symptoms.


Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer, accounting for approximately 35 percent of all childhood cancers. A cancer of the bone marrow, leukemia occurs when abnormal white blood cells divide out of control, eventually crowding out normal cells in the bloodstream. Because these abnormal cells haven't matured, they aren't able to function fully and cannot fight infections in the blood.

Signs and symptoms of leukemia include:

•Lethargy, weakness, paleness, and/or dizziness.

•Back, leg, and joint pain, headaches, and/or trouble standing or walking.

•Easy bruising, unusual bleeding, frequent nose bleeds, bleeding gums, or petechiae (red pinpoints on the skin).

•Repeated, frequent infections.

•Fever that lasts for several days.

•Loss of appetite and weight loss.

•Swollen lymph nodes, bloated or tender stomach, and/or swollen liver or spleen.

•Night sweats.


Many of these symptoms mimic those of the flu, which can delay the diagnosis of leukemia. Oftentimes, parents of children with leukemia note that their children were unusually tired in the weeks before their diagnosis. Intuition also plays a role, as many parents of children with leukemia note that something just did not feel right in the days or weeks before their kids' diagnosis.


Neuroblastoma is a rare childhood cancer of the nervous system. Roughly 1 in 6,000 children will be diagnosed with neuroblastoma by the time he or she are five years old.

A solid, malignant tumor that appears in the stomach or the spinal cord, neuroblastoma is often present at birth, even though diagnosis is typically years later. Diagnosis is often later because that's when kids begin to show some of the following symptoms of the disease:

•Lump or mass in the abdomen, chest, neck, or pelvis.

•Loss of appetite, nausea, weight loss, stomach pain, constipation, and/or difficulty urinating.

•Changes in the eyes, such as black eyes, a droopy eyelid, a pupil that does not constrict, and/or vision problems.

•Pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, and/or persistent cough.

•Pain or numbness in the lower extremities, limping, inability to stand, and/or stumbling.

•Bone pain, fever, irritability, and/or listlessness.

•Backaches (backaches in children are unusual).

Symptoms of neuroblastoma vary because they are often determined by the location of the tumor. The majority of neuroblastomas are found in the abdomen, where parents may detect a lump or mass when dressing or bathing their kids. Youngsters with a tumor in their abdomen may feel "full," experience a loss of appetite and suffer from stomach pain, while a child with a tumor in his or her head or neck may have a noticeable mass and an eyelid that droops.

Wilms tumor

A cancerous tumor on the kidney, Wilms tumor accounts for 6 to 7 percent of all childhood cancers and is more common in children under the age of seven. Wilms tumor can spread to other areas of the body, so early diagnosis and treatment is paramount. Symptoms of Wilms tumor include:

•Abdominal swelling and/or pain.




•Loss of appetite.

•Fever of unknown origin.

•Night sweats.

•Abnormal urine color or blood in the urine.


These symptoms stem from the tumor on the kidney, and a child may show some or all of these symptoms. Though it can sometimes be felt, the lump of the tumor is not always detectable. Diagnosis of Wilms tumor is not always easy, as the symptoms may be attributed to the flu. So if any of the aforementioned symptoms last more than several days, parents should contact their childrens' pediatricians.

Childhood cancers are uncommon, but parents' observations are often the first step to a cancer diagnosis, which only highlights the importance parents must place on observing their children for any signs and symptoms that may be indicative of a potentially troubling ailment.

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August 22, 2013
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