Sad But True…
14 out of every 100,00 children in the United States are affected by cancer each year, with leukemia, lymphoma, and brain cancer being the most common. Cancer in Children is difficult for all involved.
What is Cancer?
The body regulates our cells in regard to cell growth and interaction between cells. Cancer occurs when a cell grows uncontrollably and the body can no longer regulate it. The excessive overgrowth of the cancerous cells grows outside of their boundaries, destroying other cells, and even damaging tissue and organs.
What is a Tumor?
Our body knows when to grow new cells when we need them and when to replace old cells that die. When this process goes wrong, new cells are formed when we don’t need them and the old cells don’t die. The extra cells can then form a tumor that can be benign or malignant. From childhood cancer to adult cancer, they both have a similar disease process.
Although there are several risks and lifestyle factors that play a major role in adults getting cancer, it is different in children. Based on research, childhood cancers have not been linked to many outside causes.
Although not common, one factor of childhood cancer can be genetic. Some children inherit DNA (mutations) from their parents that can increase their risk of cancer. In this case, a DNA blood test could help in finding cancer in children.
More often than not, DNA changes are not genetic, but happen early on in a child’s life. The reasons that cause these DNA changes are not known in children.
What Childhood Cancer Looks Like
When children get cancer, it can oftentimes happen suddenly, without signs or early symptoms. Unlike adults, children’s cancer has a high cure rate.
When a child is suffering from cancer, the body is gradually depleted of nutrition through the overgrowth of the cells. Cancer causes children to lose strength and weakens their immune system. And, it destroys the body’s bones and organs too.
Signs & Symptoms of Cancer in Children
- Bruise easily
- Frequent headaches and vomiting
- Paleness & loss of energy
- Sudden vision changes
- Sudden weight loss
- Unusual lumps & swelling
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Treatment For Cancer – Radiation & Chemotherapy
Radiation therapy is high-energy radiation from x-rays or gamma rays. It is most effective in shrinking and/or killing cancer cells. Unfortunately, as radiation therapy kills bad cells, it also can destroy good cells.
Radiation therapy is not a one-time occurrence. Usually, children visit the hospital 4-5 days a week for several weeks. Treating the cancer takes only a few minutes, and a high amount of radiation is pointed and positioned to treat just the cancerous area. With few days between treatments, the good cells are able to recover.
Chemotherapy is the use of medicines to destroy cancer cells. Because every cancer treatment is different, some treatments may include only radiation or radiation and chemotherapy.
Side Effects of Radiation
- Fatigue can last a month of two after treatment
- Skin is red and sensitive for a few weeks after treatment
- Skin may be overall more sensitive to the sun
- Sore mouth
- Tooth decay
- Gastrointestinal problems, can include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting
- Hair loss, can grow back 3 months after treatment has ended
The more parents can inform themselves of childhood cancer, the more they can be of help and emotional support during their child in this tough time. If you are wondering if your child has cancer, visit a pediatrician today.