Childhood Cancer Awareness
A cancer diagnosis is upsetting at any age, but especially so when the patient is a child. It’s natural to have many questions, such as, Who should treat my child? Will my child get well? What does all of this mean for our family? Not all questions have answers, but the information and resources on this page provide a starting point for understanding the basics of childhood cancer.
In the United States in 2022, an estimated 10,470 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed among children from birth to 14 years, and about 1,050 children are expected to die from the disease. Although cancer death rates for this age group have declined by 71 percent from 1970 through 2019, cancer remains the leading cause of death from disease among children. The most common types of cancer diagnosed in children ages 0 to 14 years are leukemias, brain and other central nervous system (CNS) tumors, and lymphomas.
Most cancers in children, like those in adults, are thought to develop as a result of mutations in genes that lead to uncontrolled cell growth and eventually cancer. In adults, these gene mutations reflect the cumulative effects of aging and long-term exposure to cancer-causing substances. However, identifying potential environmental causes of childhood cancer has been difficult, partly because cancer in children is rare and partly because it is difficult to determine what children might have been exposed to early in their development.
There are many types of cancer treatment. The types of treatment that a child with cancer receives will depend on the type of cancer and how advanced it is. Common treatments include: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and stem cell transplant.
It’s essential for childhood cancer survivors to receive follow-up care to monitor their health after completing treatment. Survivors of any kind of cancer can develop health problems months or years after cancer treatment, known as late effects, but late effects are of particular concern for childhood cancer survivors because treatment of children can lead to profound, lasting physical and emotional effects. Late effects vary with the type of cancer, the child’s age, the type of treatment, and other factors.
Adjusting to a child’s cancer diagnosis and finding ways to stay strong is challenging for everyone in a family. Support for Families When a Child Has Cancer, has tips for talking with children about their cancer and preparing them for changes they may experience. Also included are ways to help brothers and sisters cope, steps parents can take when they need support, and tips for working with the health care team. Various aspects of coping and support are also discussed in the publication Children with Cancer: A Guide for Parents.
Information obtained from the National Cancer Institute