What Are The Common Childhood Cancer Types?2020-01-31
Thinking of getting diagnosed with cancer is already a disheartening ordeal. Any person who lives a healthy way of life would really be dumbfounded if they were to be diagnosed with cancer. So can you imagine what a child, whose body is still so fresh and young, would feel if he or she was told to have cancer? Can she even comprehend what it means to have cancer, with her naïve and pure mind? And can you picture out how a parent must feel with this sad and tragic news for her child? As much as we want to deny it, the truth that childhood cancer exists is true, though always a hard pill to swallow.
If your child feels sick, the last thing that you can think of is the fact that he may have cancer. You would normally think it’s stomach flu, cough, colds, viral or bacterial infection, but never, never cancer. But no matter how difficult it is to accept, the fact that children can really have cancer is still real. So, hard as it may be, if a child is diagnosed to have this traitorous disease, what should a parent understand and know so she can be of help to her child in this trying time?
The most common types of childhood cancer
Compared to adult cancer, childhood cancer is still considered rare. For children in the US, one child out of more or less 300 kids can be diagnosed with cancer before he reaches the age of 20. The diagnosis for childhood cancer is also detected mostly due to its pronounced symptoms, unlike for adults who may already be seen through preemptive cancer screenings and tests. Here are some of the most common cancers a child may be diagnosed with.
Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer. This cancer type involves the bone marrow and blood, and it constitutes about 30% of all childhood cancers. This disease happens when the bone marrow, which produces the components of blood (white and red blood cells as well as platelets), starts to produce abnormally immature white cells that are useless when it comes to fighting infection in the body. As these worthless cells surround the healthy once, together with the existence of viral or bacterial infections, a child’s body may not have the ability to fight them off. This abnormal growth will lead to weak immunity, and the inability to stop bleeding once an injury is sustained. The two types we hear about most are acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), both of which can proliferate quickly and require immediate treatment.
Brain, spine, and central nervous system tumors
Brain and spinal tumors make up about 25% of all childhood cancers. It stems from abnormal growth or production of nerve cells that attack specific parts of the brain and spinal cord. There are a variety of different types of brain and spine tumors, classified by where the abnormal cell growth started. The treatment and prognosis of each type depend heavily on the exact nature and location of the tumor.
- Gliomas target the brain stem, where vital functions and control of heart rate, breathing, and swallowing are located.
- Astrocytomas grow from supportive tissues of the brain called astrocytes. They may either be slowly growing (low-grade) or rapidly increasing and spreading to other parts of the brain (high-grade).
- Primitive neuroectodermal tumors arise from the primitive nerve cells that are found more in children than in adolescents.
Lymphoma is the cancer of the immune system and is likely to originate in the lymph nodes, tonsils, thymus, or spleen. Like any other cancer cells, these useless growths surround the healthy cells of the glands, making them unable to function properly.
- Hodgkin disease or lymphoma is described as the gradual, less aggressive type of lymphoma. This cancer accounts for around 3% of childhood cancer and is most common in young adults or adolescents.
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is generally a more rapidly-growing form of cancer of the immune system, and it requires immediate treatment. This cancer makes up around 5% of all childhood cancer diagnoses and occurs more frequently in younger children no less than 3 years of age.
Diagnosed mainly in infants and young kids, neuroblastoma comprises about 6% of all childhood cancers. Although neuroblastoma can start anywhere, it is most commonly found in the adrenal glands, responsible for the production of hormones. Nerve tissues along the spinal area near the neck, chest, or abdomen can also be the target of this abnormal growth.
Wilms tumor (Nephroblastoma)
Also called renal cancer, Wilms tumor makes up about 5% of childhood cancers. Nephroblastoma usually starts in one kidney. It is most common in children between the ages of 2 and 5. Because of the location, this type of cancer can easily spread to the lungs, liver, bone, brain, or lymph nodes.
Primary bone cancer makes up about 3% of childhood cancer. This type is different from the metastatic bone cancer since the latter started elsewhere and just spread into the bone. This cancer can affect anyone at any age, and kids and young adults cannot be spared.
This type of cancer starts in the eye of kids and is most common in children under the age of five. If diagnosed early, there is a high possibility that it can be considered. The most usual sign of retinoblastoma is having a white reflection in the pupil.
How is childhood cancer treated?
Getting cancer treatment at a medical center that focuses on pediatric oncology can help parents and kids with cancer get the best care and services.
Generally speaking, the childhood cancer treatment and management oncologists recommend can include:
- Surgery: Removal of the cancerous cells or tumors with biopsy for further investigation
- Chemotherapy: Use of potent chemicals and drugs to kill fast-growing cancer cells in the body
- Radiation therapy: Use beams of intense radiant energy to kill cancer cells
- Bone marrow (stem cell) transplant: A procedure that infuses healthy blood-forming stem cells into your body to replace your damaged bone marrow, since this is where blood components are being produced. Putting healthy stem cells into the bloodstream can make healthy new blood, bone marrow, and immune system cells that can help fight cancer.
Doctors may use one or more of these treatments for a child who has cancer. The type of treatment needed depends on the child’s age, the type of cancer, and how severe the cancer is. If your child is diagnosed with cancer, seek the assistance and services of a trusted pediatric oncologist at once so that early treatment can push through and a better prognosis can be reached.