Cancer means that some of the cells in the body are no longer working normally. These abnormal cells grow out of control. The cancer cells kill good cells and grow in abnormal shapes and sizes. The cancer cells may spread to other parts of the body over time. There are different kinds of cancer, depending on the type of cancer cell and where in the body the abnormal cells are growing.
The most common childhood cancers include:
What causes cancer in children is not known. In children, the cell changes happen randomly and there is no way to prevent them. It is possible that certain chemicals may cause some cancers to form. Some viruses, including the types of viruses (called HPV or human papillomavirus) that grow on the uterine cervix, are associated with the development of certain cancers. Genetics may have something to do with the cause of other cancers.
There is no one common symptom for childhood cancer. This makes it hard to diagnose cancer at first. Fevers, loss of appetite, pain, and swollen glands may occur. Other symptoms depend on the type of cancer and where the cancer is in the body.
Treatment for cancer may include more than one therapy. The focus of cancer treatment is to slow and eventually kill abnormal cells without hurting healthy ones.
Cancer therapy may include:
Up to 70% of children with cancer can be cured. A surge of well-being, activity, and weight gain may occur once a child is cured. It is a dramatic change for the child and the family.
Children cured of cancer have more risk of getting a second cancer later in life. The risk depends on the type of cancer and how it was treated. Family history and the age of the child when first treated are also factors. Long-term follow-up health visits are vital.
Counseling and support groups can help children and parents cope with the situation and help the family adjust to the changes in their lives.
American Childhood Cancer Organization is a national support organization. It provides support for children with cancer and their parents. There are support groups for parents, funding for transportation, and send child cancer patients to special summer camps. Call 855-858-2226 or visit their Web site at http://www.acco.org/.