September is observed as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month to recognize the children and families who have been touched by childhood cancer and to raise awareness about the research being conducted to help find a cure for these diseases. Unlike the development of some preventable cancers in adults, such as skin and lung cancer, the causes of childhood cancer are largely unknown. About 5 percent of childhood cancers develop due to a genetic mutation at birth that cause abnormal cell growth, which leads to cancer.
Leukemia is the most common form of childhood cancer. Leukemia is a general term for a group of cancers that affect the bone marrow and blood. There are several types of Leukemia and the symptoms can range from weight loss to fatigue and weakness to sore bones and joints.
Brain tumors are the second most common type of childhood cancer. There are many different types of cancerous brain tumors that might develop in children and each type has a different prognosis and treatment plan. Childhood brain tumors may be marked by vision problems, headaches, dizziness, and difficulties with speech and balance.
Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that occurs in developing nerve endings in young children, usually under the age of 5. The most common places for this type of cancer to develop is nerve endings in the adrenal glands and abdomen, but sometimes can develop in the spine, chest, or neck areas. Common symptoms of neuroblastoma include high blood pressure, difficulty walking, diarrhea, and changes in the child’s eyes.
Wilms Tumor is a type of cancer that begins in the kidneys and is identified by swelling of the abdominal, stomach pain, poor appetite, and fever. Similar to neuroblastoma, this form of cancer is most common in children under 5. Although this childhood cancer only makes up 5% of all childhood cancer cases, it accounts for about 90% of all instances of kidney cancer in children.
Lymphoma gets its name from the lymph nodes where it develops. This type of cancer affects the lymph nodes, lymphatic tissues, bone marrow, and various organs. The two different types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, each of which respond differently to treatment and develop at different paces. Lymphoma warning signs in children include swollen lymph nodes, weakness and fatigue, weight loss, sweats, and fever.
Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works