Childhood Cancer Awareness Day: Common Signs of Childhood Cancer Every Parent Should Know | Health
International Childhood Cancer Day 2022: Childhood cancers are rare but they are the leading cause of death in children. Parents are likely to confuse early signs of cancer with those of viral illnesses or injuries. While most childhood cancers are curable, awareness around them is important for best outcomes.
On February 15 every year, the International Childhood Cancer Day 2022 is celebrated to raise awareness about the types of childhood cancers, their diagnosis and treatment.
It is estimated that 400,000 children and adolescents aged 0 to 18 develop cancer. The most common types of childhood cancers include leukemias, brain cancer, lymphomas, solid tumors, such as neuroblastoma, Wilms tumor, and bone tumors. In high-income countries, where comprehensive services are generally available, more than 80% of children with cancer are cured. In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), this percentage is lower and the main obstacle is the lack of awareness which delays the diagnosis.
Common symptoms of childhood cancer
“Cancer often presents with nonspecific symptoms resembling common viral illnesses, thereby delaying access to appropriate and specific medical care. Primary care physicians should have a high index of suspicion in children who present with signs and worrisome or persistent symptoms,” Dr. Vikas Dua, Gurugram, director of pediatric hematology, hemato-oncology and bone marrow transplantation, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram told HT Digital.
It also opens up about the signs of different types of childhood cancers that parents should watch out for:
Red flag signs for leukemia or lymphoma include:
* Prolonged fever with no identifiable cause
* Unexplained and prolonged pallor
* Malaise, lameness or refusal to walk
* Palpable lymph nodes: When the lymph nodes enlarge, they are called enlarged lymph nodes. They can be in the neck, armpits and groin
* Bleeding diathesis characterized by petechiae (small purple, red, or brown spots on the skin), bruising (discoloration of the skin resulting from bleeding underneath), recurrent nosebleeds, and bleeding gums
* Hepatosplenomegaly, a disorder where the liver and spleen swell beyond their normal size
Warning signs of Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Prolonged profuse night sweats, fever and significant weight loss; as well as lymphadenitis (enlargement of one or more lymph nodes), are typical signs of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Signs of central nervous system tumor
New or persistent morning headaches associated with vomiting, neurological symptoms such as an unsteady staggering gait, or back pain should raise concern for central nervous system tumors.
Abdominal and bone tumor signs
Palpable masses in the abdomen or soft tissues and persistent bone pain that does not respond to painkillers and wakes the child are some of the warning signs of abdominal, soft tissue, and bone tumors. Abdominal mass when associated with blood in the urine (hematuria) or hypertension should raise suspicion of kidney tumors (Wilms tumor).
Warning signs of retinoblastoma
The white pupillary reflex (leukocoria) is a red flag for retinoblastoma (malignant tumor of the retina). Heightened suspicion is also warranted for conditions such as various immunodeficiency syndromes, certain genetic conditions, and familial cancer syndromes such as Down syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, hemihypertrophy, neurofibromatosis, and retinoblastoma which are associated with a higher risk of cancer.
“A correct diagnosis is essential to prescribe an appropriate treatment for the disease. Children also need special attention to their continuous physical and cognitive growth, to their nutritional status, thus requiring a dedicated and multidisciplinary team. Recovery is possible for more than 80% of children when childhood cancer services are accessible in a timely manner,” concludes Dr. Dua.