Do you know that Children also have cancer? Fact about CHILDHOOD CANCER

The word “cancer” brings different feelings to different people; to some, it’s that feeling of pain, to some is that feeling of a warrior, a champion, or a fighter. Surprisingly, anywhere you mention the word cancer, several people associate it to only adults. Many people are not aware that children also have cancer. Yes. Children also have cancer.

Cancer can start any place in the body and can happen to anybody, whether old or young, including children. Cancer starts when cells grow out of control and crowd out normal cells. This makes it hard for the body to work the way it should. These growths may invade adjoining parts of the body and can spread to other organs. Cancer records as the world’s second highest killer disease accounting for an average annual death of about 8million both in children and adults with 2015 recording the highest death of 8.8 million.

Childhood cancer is responsible for about 57% (about 90,000) of the annual death in children of less than the age of 15 and it is among other forms of diseases that causes child mortality. It often occurs as a result of DNA modification in the cell bodies at a very early stage of the affected child’s life, which sometimes are before birth hence most child cancers as more congenital than environmental related.

What are the types of childhood cancer?

The most common type of childhood cancer is the leukemia also known as the cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Leukemia accounts for 30% of cancer in children as either the acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) or acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Commonly experienced symptoms are bone and joint pain, fatigue, weakness, pale skin, bleeding or bruising, fever, weight loss. Acute leukemias can grow very fast and require urgent treatment attention with chemotherapy as soon as diagnosed.

The second most common type of child cancer is the Brain and central nervous system tumors which makes up about 26% of childhood cancers. The frequent brain tumors in children occurs in the lower parts of the brain, such as the cerebellum or brain stem. Symptoms include: headaches, nausea, vomiting, blurred or double vision, dizziness, seizures, trouble walking or handling objects, and other symptoms. Adults are more likely to develop tumors in upper parts of the brain. The Spinal cord tumors are less common than brain tumors in both children and adults.

Other types of child cancer includes:

  • Neuroblastoma (starts in early forms of nerve cells found in a developing embryo or fetus)
  • Wilms tumor (also called nephroblastoma and affects the kidneys)
  • Lymphomas (these affects the lymphocytes )
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma (which occurs in the cells that normally develop into skeletal muscles)
  • Retinoblastoma (cancer of the eye)
  • Osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma(Bone cancers )

What are the common signs and symptoms of childhood cancer?

  • An unusual lump or swelling
  • Unexplained paleness and loss of energy
  • Easy bruising
  • An ongoing pain in one area of the body
  • Limping
  • Unexplained fever or illness that doesn’t go away
  • Frequent headaches, often with vomiting
  • Sudden eye or vision changes
  • Sudden unexplained weight loss

What are the risk factors and causes of child cancers?

The causes and risk factors of child cancer are largely unknown. However, there are a few indications that can be inferred as the known causes of cancer in children and they are classified as:

  1. External Agents (physical, biological, chemical and environmental carcinogens).

-Physical carcinogens: ionizing radiation (X-ray), non-ionizing radiation (electromagnetic fields, UV).

-Biological carcinogens: infections from viruses (Epstein Barr virus: Burkitt’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s disease; Hepatitis B: liver carcinoma; and HHV8 and HIV: Kaposi’s sarcoma).

-Chemical carcinogens: tobacco: mothers who smoke during pregnancy, pesticides, asbestos: parental occupation, aflatoxin, arsenic: food and drinking water contaminants, drugs and medication: pregnant women treatment, diethylstilbestrol: cell adenocarcinoma of the vagina or cervix, Dietary constituents

  1. Internal agents (Inherited factors, predisposition to particular familial diseases, genetically determined features)

Can childhood cancer be prevented?

Unlike many cancers of adults, lifestyle-related risk factors (such as smoking) don’t influence a child’s risk of getting cancer. A few environmental factors, such as radiation exposure, have been linked with childhood cancer risk.

Avoid prolonged exposure to radiation and this sometimes might be unavoidable, if the child needs radiation therapy to treat another cancer. If your child does develop cancer, it is important to know that it is extremely unlikely there is anything you or your child could have done to prevent it.

In situations where a child has inherited the cancer gene from its parents, it is recommended that a preventive surgery is carried out to remove the affected organ before the cancer has a chance to develop there.

Screening in form of frequent medical check-ups should be done in children who presents with the mentioned common symptoms so as to immediately tackle and treat the disease.

Can childhood cancer be treated?

Treatment for childhood cancer is based mainly on the type and stage (extent) of the cancer. The main types of treatment used for childhood cancer are:


-Radiation therapy


Some types of childhood cancers might be treated with high-dose chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant. Newer types of treatment, such as targeted therapy drugs and immunotherapy, have also shown promise in treating some childhood cancers. Often more than one type of treatment is used.

Children’s bodies are also generally better able to recover from higher doses of chemotherapy than are adults’ bodies. Using more intensive treatments gives doctors a better chance of treating the cancer effectively, but it can also lead to more short- and long-term side effects. Unlike chemotherapy, radiation can often cause more serious side effects in children (especially very young children) than in adults, so its use sometimes needs to be limited. Doctors do their best to balance the need for intensive treatment with the desire to limit side effects as much as possible.

There is a known survival rate of about 90% in Leukemia which denotes that it is curable in children.

Who can help treat child cancer?

Treatment of childhood cancer is coordinated by a team of experts who know the differences between adult and childhood cancers, as well as the unique needs of children with cancer and their families. This team usually includes:

  • Pediatric oncologists: doctors who specialize in using medicines to treat children with cancer
  • Pediatric surgeons: doctors who specialize in performing surgery in children
  • Radiation oncologists: doctors who specialize in using radiation to treat cancer
  • Pediatric oncology nurses: nurses who specialize in caring for children with cancer
  • Patient navigators: they can help to navigate the child to care and resources available to them in a timely manner.


At Project PINK BLUE, we strongly believe that no human should fight cancer alone, hence, we can help navigate you to care. Call our patient navigators today: 08000CANCER.

Oshoma Iyelobu, PPB Childhood Cancer Goodwill Ambassador.