Cancer is a disease that affects people of all ages, including children. Paediatric cancer is relatively rare, but it remains a significant health concern. Paediatric cancer constitutes 3-4 % of all cancers. Approximately 300,000 children aged 0 to 19 years old are diagnosed with cancer each year. Studies say every 3 minutes a new case of childhood cancer is diagnosed in the world. But the advancements in research and treatment, have made a significant impact on the lives of children with cancer and their families.
What are the Most Common Types of Paediatric Cancer?
The most common types of cancer in children are Acute Leukemia. Central nervous system tumours and lymphoma, wilmstumour, neuroblastoma, and bone tumours like osteosarcoma are others. The causes of childhood cancer are not well understood, but research suggests that genetic mutations and environmental factors may play a role.
Careful with These Symptoms
Paediatric cancer can present with a variety of symptoms, depending on the type of cancer. Symptoms of childhood cancer can vary depending on the type of cancer, but some common signs include unexplained weight loss, paleness, tiredness, fatigue, increased swelling or pain in joints with limping, recurrent fever not caused by infections, and excessive bruising, headache with vomiting, lump in abdomen, neck and anywhere. It is important for parents and caregivers to seek medical attention if they notice any unusual symptoms in a child, as early detection and treatment can improve outcomes.
Aware of the Causes
There is no single cause of Paediatric cancer. The most prominent cause is idiopathic. Some risk factors may include genetic predisposition, exposure to environmental toxins, and certain infections. Cancer in children can be caused by exposure to radiation. Cancer cells are formed in children due to genetic reasons.
Currently, there is no known way to prevent cancer during pregnancy. However, women can reduce their risk of developing cancer by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding exposure to harmful chemicals, and getting regular medical checkups.
Children with cancer should receive care from a team of specialists who are experienced in treating Paediatric cancers. The solid tumour will need multidisciplinary team management including chemotherapy, surgical removal, radiation therapy, and bone marrow or stem cell transplantation. The specific treatment plan will depend on the type and stage of cancer. Cancerous tumours in any organ or muscle can be cured very quickly with surgery if detected early. But if the tumours have spread elsewhere, chemotherapy or radiation may be needed.
Paediatric cancers are curable but require specialized management. Early recognition and rapid diagnosis is essential to improve outcomes. There is a possibility of disease recurrence in the first two years of therapy. So, regular follow-up is necessary. Proper immunisation and monitoring of signs and symptoms are a must. After treatment, children should be watched closely for long-term effects. A detailed plan is to be done by the oncologist regarding monitoring of late effects and education of family members.
Paediatric cancer is a harsh reality that affects not only the child but the entire family. While Paediatric cancer is a challenging and often heartbreaking reality, there is hope. By raising awareness, and supporting those impacted by this disease, we can continue to make strides towards a future where no child has to face cancer.
(Dr. Kesavan M R is Consultant, Paediatric Hemato Oncology, Aster MIMS Calicut)