Symptoms Of Childhood Cancer

Childhood and teenage cancers differ from those in the elderly. Most childhood cancers result from early-life DNA mutations, and with advancements in treatment, over 80% of children with cancer can expect to live longer. However, early warning signs can be easily overlooked as they resemble common infections or injuries. This article explains the types of childhood cancers and their symptoms, including leukemia, bone cancer, liver cancer, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, kidney cancer, and retinoblastoma.

Did you know that childhood and teenage cancers differ from those in the elderly? Most childhood cancers result from early-life DNA mutations, and with advancements in treatment, over 80% of children with cancer can expect to live longer. However, early warning signs can be easily overlooked as they resemble common infections or injuries. Discover the types of childhood cancers and their symptoms in this article.

What is Cancer?

Cancer is a life-threatening disease caused by uncontrolled cell growth that destroys other cells in the body and spreads to other organs, known as metastasis. Tumors form as abnormal cells create masses or lumps that can affect various bodily systems by releasing hormones. Cancer compromises the immune system, weakening the affected individual and damaging internal organs and bones.

Comparison of Adult and Child Cancer

Childhood cancers are not caused by environmental or lifestyle factors. Children's cancers differ from adult cancers:

  • Most childhood cancers respond well to treatments.

  • Children have fewer health problems that can worsen cancer treatment outcomes compared to adults.

  • Children under five are more susceptible to side effects from radiation therapy than adults.

  • Children's bodies can better tolerate chemotherapy compared to adults.

Childhood Cancer Types & Its Symptoms

Children can be affected by various types of cancer. The most frequently occurring kinds of cancer in children include-

  • Leukemia

One of the most prevalent children’s cancers is leukemia, which affects the blood and bone marrow. Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that begins and spreads in cells that generally & become lymphocytes. These cells are found in bone marrow, where new blood is produced. In children, acute lymphoblastic and acute myeloid leukemia are the two primary forms.

Symptoms of leukemia -

  • Tiredness

  • Weakness

  • a feeling of dizziness

  • Difficulty in breathing

  • pale skin

  • Recurring or chronic infections

  • Bruises that are easily caused.

  • Nosebleeds

  • Bleeding gums

  • joint pain

  • Lumps swollen

  • swollen stomach

Leukemia is the most frequent cancer among children. It affects approximately one in every three children who develop cancer.

  • Bone cancer

Bone cancer is frequently discovered at the end of an arm or leg bone. Ewing sarcoma is more common in younger people, particularly those under 20.

Symptoms of bone cancer -

  • Pain in the bones

  • Edema pain

Bone cancer is more common in older children and teenagers, although it can strike anyone, regardless of gender or age. Osteosarcoma and Ewing's sarcoma are the two most common forms of bone cancer, responsible for around 3% of cancer cases.

  • Liver cancer

Childhood liver cancer is a disorder in which cancer cells develop in the liver's tissues & cover an ample space in the human body. It has four lobes and is located in the rib cage on the right upper side of the abdomen.

Symptoms of Liver Cancer

  • Abdominal swelling or pain

  • Abnormal weight loss

  • Appetite loss

  • Boys' early puberty

  • Nauseous

  • Painless abdominal lump

Children with liver cancer are pretty rare. Hepatoblastomas and hepatic carcinomas are the two most common forms of liver tumors.

  • Lymphoma

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that originates in the lymph nodes and other lymph tissues, such as the tonsils. As well as affecting the bone marrow and other organs, Lymphoma can damage the immune system. The immune system's lymphocytes are at the root of lymphoma. This type causes one out of every ten incidences of cancer in youngsters. Hodgkin's lymphoma and Non-lymphoma Hodgkin's are two forms of lymphoma that can affect children.

Symptoms of lymphoma-

  • Fever

  • Sweats

  • Weakness

  • Weight loss

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in children under 3 than Hodgkin lymphoma. Children are more likely to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma of a different form than adults. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas in adults that are more aggressive and require more intense therapy are likely to respond better to treatment than other non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

  • Neuroblastoma

Neuroblastoma is a form of cancer that typically affects newborns and children under five. Neural crest cancer involves highly specialized nerve cells. Swelling and a high-temperature result from this condition, which develops in the child's belly.

Symptoms of neuroblastoma-

  • Changes in eyes (dark circles, bulging, droopy eyelids)

  • Diarrhea

  • High blood pressure

  • Inability to walk normally

  • Pain in various areas of the body

Those with this disease are more likely to be male, and only 1-2 percent of children with it have a genetic link to it.

  • Kidney Cancer

One of the most common forms of kidney cancer is Wilms' tumor or nephroblastoma, which develops from a tumor in a kidney. Cancer of the kidneys typically affects children between the ages of 3 and 4, and it seldom affects children above the age of six.

Symptoms of kidney cancer-

  • A burning sensation in the stomach

  • Abdominal lump or swelling

  • Appetite loss

  • Constipation

  • Fever

  • high blood pressure

  • Loss of weight

  • Urine with blood

Children under the age of five are most commonly affected. Among teenagers aged 15-19, renal cell carcinoma is the most prevalent kidney cancer.

  • Retinoblastoma

Retinoblastoma is a rare cancer of the eye that affects children. It begins in the retina, a layer of tissue in the back of the eye. An eye's retina is a thin layer of nerve tissue that enables vision.


  • enlarged pupil

  • Eyes misaligned toward the ear or nose

  • Inability to see clearly

  • Red, swollen eye

  • White (leukocoria) or red pupil instead of the usual black one.

Retinoblastoma is a rare type of cancer that affects the retina lining of the child's eye every 2 out of 100). It's most prevalent in children under the age of two. Approximately 60 percent of cases (unilateral) involve only one eye, although, in particular children, both eyes may be affected (bilateral).

  • Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Soft tissue sarcoma type of cancer can develop in any portion or organ of the body, including the head, neck, groin, belly, or pelvis. It can also develop in the bone marrow. This form of sarcoma is the most frequent in children.

Early soft tissue tumors may exhibit no symptoms.

A lump or swelling under the skin is the most prevalent symptom.

  • Larger sarcomas can strain on adjacent muscles, nerves, organs, and blood arteries, causing-

  • discomfort (tinnitus)

  • Weakness

  • Asthma

These symptoms may or may not be indicative of soft tissue sarcoma. To diagnose these symptoms, your pediatrician must check your child extensively.

  • Spinal Cord Tumors

Spinal cord tumors can be benign or cancerous. Tumors of the spinal cord can originate in the cord itself or spread there from other organs (metastatic). Cancerous metastatic spinal cord tumors are found more often in children than in original tumors.

Symptoms of spinal tumors-

  • Back, neck, arm, and leg pain

  • Arms or legs numbness or weakness

  • Struggle to walk

  • Sensation loss

  • Inability to urinate (incontinence)

  • Bowel habit change (retention)

  • Various degrees of paralysis

  • Spinal deformities

  • Standing difficulties or pain

They are much less common among children than brain tumors and primarily affect children aged 10 and 16.

  • Brain Tumor

Each type of brain tumor has a different lifespan and treatment options. Tumors in the cerebellum or brain stem typically begin in children's brains. Many of the symptoms of brain tumors in children are similar to those in adults, even though the tumors are often smaller in children.

Symptoms of brain tumors-

  • Balance problems

  • Dizziness

  • Frequent vomiting

  • Headaches

  • Vision, hearing, or speech problems

Brain tumors and other nervous system tumors account for around 27% of childhood cancers.

  • Germ Cell Tumor

Tumors of the germ cells are most commonly detected in the testicles and ovaries, where they give rise to eggs or sperm. Mutations in a germ cell's genes can cause it to develop out of control, ultimately resulting in a tumor. Germ cells can, in rare times, be discovered outside of the uterus.

Symptoms of germ cell tumors -

  • a mass in the testicles or belly

  • An ovarian or testicular mass.

  • bloating and pain

  • Breast, pubic hair, or vaginal bleeding earlier than normal

  • Constipation

  • If the tumor is near one pelvic, children may have difficulty pooping or peeing.

  • Incorrectly shaped or sized testicles

  • Leg ache (if the tumor is in the lower back)

  • Wheezing or wheezing (if the tumor is near the lungs)

There are very few cases of germ cell tumors. Germ cell tumors occur for around 2 to 4% of all malignancies in children and adolescents under 20.

  • Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, the most frequent form of childhood cancer, is responsible for 34% of pediatric cancer cases. Males are more likely than females to develop ALL between the ages of 2 and 4 years. Blood-stage leukemia originates in the bone marrow and extends to other tissues and organs.

Symptoms of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) -

  • Bleeding

  • Bone and joint pain

  • Brain Tumors

  • Fatigue

  • Fever

  • Weakness

  • Weight loss

WHO estimated three-quarters of cases of pediatric leukemia are ALL.

  • Wilms Tumor

The most frequent form of childhood kidney cancer, Wilms Tumor, begins in the kidneys.

Symptoms of Wilms tumors

  • Fever

  • Nausea

  • Pain

  • Poor appetite

  • Swelling or lump in the belly

About 5% of all childhood cancers are caused by Wilms tumors, which generally only affect one kidney but can occur in rare circumstances. In children older than 6, this condition is more common in very young children (between 3 and 4 years old).

What Effect Does Cancer Have on the Children and the Family?

  • Over 80% of pediatric cancer cases can be successfully treated.

  • Children and their families face stress and mental turmoil despite successful treatment.

  • Modern therapies can have long-term effects on children, including hair loss, weariness, decreased appetite, and lethargy.

  • Extended hospital stays and missed school can cause academic setbacks and social withdrawal.

  • Cancer treatment can fatigue children and make them unwilling to engage in other activities.

  • Cancer treatments can last months, making it difficult for parents to focus on their jobs or social lives.

  • Parents and siblings of cancer patients must learn to provide emotional support.

  • Hospital staff, doctors, and social workers can provide assistance and support. Joining a cancer support group can also be helpful.

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