Monday, May 21, 2018

Watch out for these signs in children that may hint a cancer


By Dr Chris Peterson

Your child has cancer’ - it’s a sentence no parents want to hear.

However, it may be a reality for many, with thousands of new cases expected to be diagnosed every year according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Apart from lifestyle and genetic factors, the risk factors for certain types of cancers go higher with the age, I always tell people to bear the truth that one is neither too young nor old to be diagnosed with (any type of) cancer at some point in their life and we are not guaranteed to be cancer free forever.

In children, cancer can sometimes be hard to recognise because common illnesses or everyday bumps and bruises can mask the early warning signs. Parents are advised to be vigilant when they notice something abnormal to their kids since some cancers can disguise in such mild conditions.

Well, I have rarely written about childhood cancers, but the recent CDC statistics is worrisome; hence it’s wise to share awareness with the readers on the types of cancers likely to strike children and their symptoms to watch for. These are also known as paediatric cancers.

Lymphoma: This type of cancer starts in certain cells of the immune system called lymphocytes. These cancers affect lymph nodes and other lymph tissues, like the tonsils or thymus. They can also affect the bone marrow and other organs causing different symptoms depending on where the cancer is growing. These cancer are of two types, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. But the most common in children is non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

These cancers often grow quickly and require intensive treatment, but they also tend to respond better to treatment if caught early. Parents are advised to be attentive on the symptoms of lymphoma that may include; swollen lymph node in the neck, armpit, or groin, unexplained weight loss, fever, sweating profusely and weakness.

Another form of cancer is brain tumour. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently reported that brain tumour and other nervous system tumours make up about 32 per cent of childhood cancers. There are many types of brain tumours and the treatment and outlook for each is different. Most brain tumours in children start in the lower parts of the brain, such as the cerebellum or brain stem.

Although brain tumours are typically different in children as opposed to adults, many of the symptoms remain the same. These are; headaches, dizziness, balance problems, vision, hearing or speech problems and frequent vomiting.

Wilms tumour is in the list too. I bet you have rarely heard about it. Wilms tumour starts in the kidneys and is the most common type of paediatric kidney cancer. Wilms tumours usually forms in one kidney, but sometimes both. It accounts for about 5 per cent of all paediatric cancers. This disease is typically found in infants and children from the ages of 0-5. And is not very common in children over 6.

When Wilms tumour strikes, a child may experience several symptoms like swelling or lump in the belly, fever, pain, nausea and poor appetite.

I have been preaching a lot about early cancer detection and how it matters. It really saves a life as I have been saying that’s why it’s important to pay close attention on any unaddressed medical condition and seek medical attention even when they seem not life-threatening.