Children Against Cancer

Child & Teen Cancers

“Childhood cancers have escalated to alarming proportions in recent years.”    ~ Samuel Epstein, M.D.

Cancer in babies, children and teenagers differs notably from adult forms of the disease.

Cancer incidents, mortality and survival rates differ depending on race and ethnicity. Caucasian (white) and Hispanic children appear to have higher incidents of childhood and teen cancers, while African American (black) kids have lower survival rates. Asian American and Pacific Islander children have similar rates to African Americans. Native American (Indian) girls and boys have the lowest cancer rates and mortality of all races and ethnic groups. More studies are needed to determine why the differences.

Symptoms of childhood cancer may appear at first to be similar to other childhood illnesses. But when a child or adolescent shows sudden, persistent changes in their health or behavior similar to symptoms we explain on this page, it is best to consult a licensed health care professional right away. If your doctor is not certain of the exact cause, seek a second opinion from another qualified pediatrician.

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According to the United States National Cancer Institute (NCI), there are 12 major types of cancer that affect babies, children of all ages, and teenagers, plus rare cancers that sometimes affect children.

BRAIN CANCER

Symptoms

Brain cancer is the most common solid malignancy in children and teens, and is known as gliomas.

•   Headache, often upon awakening

•   Problems with eyes or vision

•   Speech difficulty, loss of balance

•   Vomiting, often early in the day

•   Weakness

•   Increase in head size

•   Seizures

•   Pain in the head or neck

EWING’S SARCOMA

Symptoms

This is a type of cancer that often shows up in the bones, but also may be found in soft tissues. Ewing’s Sarcoma occurs most frequently in teenagers.

•    Pain or swelling around bone joints

•    A bone may fracture

•    Pain in the back area

NEUROBLASTOMA

Symptoms

A solid tumor that usually begins in the adrenal glands, but can also be found in the abdomen, chest, neck or pelvis.  90% of kids diagnosed with neuroblastoma are younger than five years old.  Sadly, by the time a child is diagnosed, there is a 70% chance the cancer has already spread. It is most often found in children under two years of age.

•   Swelling, pain in the abdomen   

•   Changes in the eyes

•   Fatigue caused by anemia

•   Bruises, bleeding

•   Fever

•   Rapid heartbeat

•   Jerking muscles

HEPATOBLASTOMA

The most common liver cancer in very young children.  Premature babies have a higher risk.

HEPATOCELLULAR

Symptoms

A form of liver cancer that occurs more frequently in older children.  A risk factor is Hepatitis B or C and is greatest when the Hepatitis virus passes from mother to child during birth.

•   Jaundice (yellow skin or whites of the eyes)

•   Itchy skin

•   Swollen, painful abdomen

•   Nausea, vomiting

THYROID CANCER

Symptoms

The thyroid is a small gland in the front of the neck. It makes and stores hormones that regulate a child’s growth, body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and more.

•   One or more lumps in the neck

•   Difficulty swallowing or breathing

•   Hoarse voice

•   Sense of tightness in the neck

•   Family history of thyroid cancer may be a factor

RETINOBLASTOMA

Symptoms

A rare cancer of the eye that occurs usually in babies to early teen years. About 40% of kids who develop eye cancer have a genetic form of the disease.

•   Enlarged pupil

•   Crossed eyes

•   Poor vision

•   Different colored iris

TESTICULAR CANCER

Symptoms

There has been a dramatic increase in recent years of testicular cancer and may cause death in boys and young adult males.

•   Lump in one or both testicles

•   Enlarged testicle

•   Dull ache in the groin     

•   Sense of heaviness in scrotum          

•   Enlarged nipples and breasts

KAPOSI’S SARCOMA

Symptoms

Believed to be caused by the Human Herpes Virus 8 (HHV8), it is common in Equatorial Africa and now seen in the United States. Typically, lesions appear in the mouth or skin and some penetrate to the bone, digestive system, and the lungs.

•   Skin lesion

•   Pain in the chest

•   Swollen lymph glands or limbs

•   Sores inside the mouth

•   Breathlessness

•   Fatigue

CLEAR CELL SARCOMA

Symptoms

Children with this form of cancer usually range in ages between 2 months and 14 years.

•   Abdominal mass or pain

•   Fever

ACUTE LYMPHOBLASTIC LEUKEMIA (ALL)

Symptoms

A common cancer in children and teens, it begins in the bone marrow and spreads into the bloodstream. A significant number of kids have cancer return after the treatments.

•   Fatigue

•   Tiny red spots under the skin

•   Painful bones and joints

•   Bleeding, bruises

•   Swollen spleen or liver

•   Tender lymph nodes

OSTEOSARCOMA

Symptoms

The most common bone cancer, usually found in older kids and teens. It is associated with rapid growth. Osteosarcoma usually begins in the leg or upper arm, although it may develop in any bone, and may spread.  It sometimes results in the amputation of the cancerous limb.

•   Pain or swelling about the bone joint

•   The bone may fracture

•   The child may limp if the cancer affects a leg bone  

JUVENILE BREAST CANCER

Symptoms

Girls ages 3 years to 15 years have a one in 228

risk of developing rare forms of juvenile breast

cancer. The disease in girls and teens is more

aggressive and causes higher death rates than

breast cancer in adult women.  

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Juvenile Secretory Carcinoma is a slow-growing

breast cancer, while Cystosarcoma Phylloides 

grows rapidly in the young breast.

•   Lump or thickening in the chest area

•   Unusual nipple discharge

•   Redness or swelling on the chest

WILMS’ TUMOR – OR NEPHROBLASTOMA

Symptoms

Nearly 95% of kidney cancers in children are Wilms’ Tumor. It occurs more often in black girls.  Wilms’ cancer may affect one or both kidneys.  The American Cancer Society claims that the risk occurs more often in children with certain kinds of birth defects.

•   Fever

•   A lump or pain in the abdomen

•   Blood in the urine

•   Diarrhea

•   Weight loss

•   Urogenital infections

RHABDOMYOSARCOMA (RMS)

Symptoms

A cancer that occurs most often where the skeletal muscles originate: the head and neck, urinary and reproductive organs, arms and legs and trunk.  It is more common in kids younger than ten years of age.

•   A rapidly growing, firm lesion on the arm or leg

•   Weakness of facial nerves, sinus infection, headaches

•   Discharge from the ears

•   Headaches or swelling around the eye

•   Blood in the urine or from the vagina in a young child

 HODGKIN’S LYMPHOMA

Symptoms

A cancer that tends to develop in the lymph nodes of the neck, armpit, or groin.  A weakened immune system increases the risks.

•   Swollen lymph nodes that don’t respond to antibiotic treatments

•   Poor appetite

•   Night sweats

•   Itchy skin

•   Weight loss

•   Fever

•   Not feeling well

NON-HODGKIN’S LYMPHOMA

Symptoms (Depending on site)

A type of cancer affecting lymph nodes found deep within the body. They are often found in the upper chest, near the bowels or appendix. It usually affects older children or teenagers.

•   Swelling of the abdomen

•   Fever, chills

•   Night sweats

•   Cough, shortness of breath

BURKITT’S LYMPHOMA

Symptoms (Depending on site)

A rare cancer, the most aggressive in kids where they are weakened by malaria. It is associated with the Epstein-Barr virus and HIV, and usually appears as a facial tumor, in the nasal sinuses, and lymph nodes although it may also be found in the abdomen.

•   Itchy skin

•   Tumor in the mouth or face

•   Swollen abdomen

•   Pain 

•   Loosened teeth

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