Childhood Cancers Symptoms and Risks
Symptoms of pediatric cancer can vary based on many different factors, including the type of cancer. Often, both parent and child can miss early signs of childhood cancer, as symptoms can mimic many common childhood illnesses, injuries and other health conditions.
Childhood cancers also differ from adult cancers in that the causes of pediatric cancers are largely unknown. For example, smoking cigarettes increases the risk of getting lung cancer in adults, but there are no similar lifestyle changes that could prevent bone cancer or leukemia in children.
At The University of Kansas Cancer Center, our pediatric cancer team provides children and teens the support they need from diagnosis and symptom management through treatment and lifelong adult care. Our pediatric and adult specialists from many fields offer comprehensive services so your child can receive the high-quality care he or she needs well beyond adolescence.
Childhood Cancers Symptoms
Childhood cancer symptoms may include:
- An unusual lump, mass or swelling
- Sudden weight loss
- Frequent pain in the back, bones, joints or legs
- Ongoing fever, illness or low energy
- Frequent or persistent infections
- Frequent headaches, often with nausea or vomiting
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Bruising easily or excessive bleeding
- Noticeable paleness or fatigue
- Sudden, persistent vision changes or a whiteness behind the pupil
Many children experience some of these issues at some point in their childhood and do not have cancer. Some children with cancer may not experience any of these symptoms. The most important thing is to pay close attention to your child’s overall health and well-being and check with your doctor if you have any concerns. Your doctor will schedule additional tests and screening to determine whether your child may have cancer.
Childhood cancer risk factors
Lifestyle-related risk factors, like being overweight or heavy alcohol or tobacco use, can play a major role in adult-onset cancers. Because these risk factors typically take years to increase the chance of getting cancer, pediatric cancer doesn’t share the same risk factors.
Some types of childhood cancer may have a genetic link while others may be connected to certain environmental factors, such as exposure to radiation. However, identifying a direct cause for childhood cancer is rare. Most childhood cancers are not linked with any specific cause or risk factor, and are not preventable.
Determining the risks and causes of pediatric cancer is an area of study where doctors and researchers continue working hard to find answers. Families of children with cancer can connect with organizations like the Children’s Oncology Group or CureSearch to help doctors and researchers learn more. New research is ongoing to determine the causes of childhood cancer as well as develop new treatments to improve prognosis and overall quality of life.