The most horrifying words for any parent to hear is the word cancer when it comes to their children.
Most of us know that when cells in the body begin to grow uncontrollably, cancer starts. Cells in almost any part of the body can turn cancerous, and can spread to other parts of the body. Frequently, childhood cancer types differ from cancer types in adults. The most common cause of childhood cancers are DNA changes that take place in cells very early in life, or even in the womb.
Childhood cancer researchers have found evidence, that the first few cells of various malignancies, such as Wilms tumours, neuroblastomas, germ cells and some brain tumours may already be present at birth. Some studies have shown that a genetic disposition for cancer early in life has been linked to particular (rare) birth defects, which feature specific gene alterations. But still, cancer is not an inherited disease.
While most cancers that strike adults can be traced to lifestyle or environmental risk factors, the same isn’t true for most childhood cancers. Environmental factors, such as radiation exposure, have been linked with several childhood cancers. A child’s risk of certain cancers may also rise due to parental exposures (such as smoking), but more studies are needed to explore these possible links.
Pediatric cancer symptoms may not be easily recognisable. Childhood illnesses, bumps and bruises may often mask childhood cancer signs. Always get your child checked by a qualified physician if the following symptoms persist without reason:
- An unusual lump or swelling
- Unexplained paleness and loss of energy
- Easy bruising
- An ongoing pain in one area of the body
- Unexplained fever or illness that doesn’t go away
- Frequent headaches, often with vomiting
- Sudden eye or vision changes
- Sudden unexplained weight loss
How can a parent help prevent childhood cancer? Researchers & paediatric healthcare providers have observed that children with a risk of cancers may never develop a cancer, but those with no known risk factors do develop cancer. As precise reasons have not been identified for each separate paediatric cancer type, the way to prevent childhood cancer is still unknown.
Short & Long – Term Effects of Treatment on Children
While it is natural to want to put the horror of cancer treatment behind you, it is necessary for parents to understand that children may suffer short to long- term effects of their treatment. Regular follow-up as prescribed by the child’s medical team must be done to nip any budding problems such as the cancer recurring or side-effects of cancer treatments from developing.
Some problems childhood cancer survivors face:
- Heart or lung problems (due to certain chemotherapy drugs or radiation therapy to the chest area)
- Slowed or delayed growth and development (in the bones or overall)
- Changes in sexual development and fertility problems
- Learning difficulties
- Increased risk of other cancers later in life