Childhood cancer symptoms you need to know

When your little one isn’t feeling well, it can be easy to worry about childhood cancer symptoms — common, everyday illnesses often have the same symptoms as the early signs of cancer.

You might wonder about the symptoms you should never ignore with your children. What is simply “normal” illness or aches and pains, and what needs to be checked out further?

What are the general symptoms to watch for?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) lists some symptoms that, if persistent, you should have checked out by your doctor. These include lumps or swelling, paleness, lethargy, limping, localized pain, mysterious fever or illness, frequent headaches, vomiting, sudden changes in vision or the eyes, and sudden weight loss.

What are common childhood cancers?

Roswell Park Cancer Center says these are the top five pediatric cancers, with their most common symptoms:

  1. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

    This is the most common childhood cancer, causing roughly one-third of all cases of cancer in children. It affects boys more often than girls and it occurs most often between the ages of two and four. The most common symptoms are bone and joint pain, fatigue, weakness, fever, weight loss, and bleeding.

  2. Brain tumorMother holding child.
    About 27 percent of childhood cancers are brain or other nervous system tumors. Symptoms include headaches, vomiting and dizziness, and problems with vision, hearing, speech, and equilibrium.
  3. Neuroblastoma
    This is a type of cancer that usually occurs in children under five years old and accounts for seven percent of childhood cancers in the U.S. Common symptoms include difficulty walking, changes in the eyes’ appearance, high blood pressure, pain and diarrhea.
  4. Wilms tumor
    The most common pediatric kidney cancer, Wilms tumors usually affect only one kidney. It is typically found in kids between the ages of three and four, and rarely in kids over six. It makes up about five percent of pediatric cancer in the U.S., and nine out of 10 kids who get it are cured. Wilms tumor can cause fever, pain, nausea, loss of appetite, and a lump or swelling in the belly.
  5. Lymphoma
    Lymphoma starts in immune-system cells and can affect different parts of the body. Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, fever, sweats, weakness and weight loss.

What if your child has some of these symptoms?

First, don’t panic. While it’s important that you check in with your child’s pediatrician, remember: Most of these symptoms usually come from something more common. As ACS notes, childhood cancer accounts for less than 1 percent of diagnoses each year. Don’t ignore potential childhood cancer symptoms, but don’t worry any more than you usually do.

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