Can Cancers Develop In Childhood Too?

Not only does cancer develop in adults, some cancers also develop in children as well. The types of cancers that occur most often in children are different from those seen in adults and tend to be more aggressive than those in adults.

Most Common Cancers Among Children

1. Leukemia – Leukemia is a cancer of the early blood-forming cells.It is the most common childhood cancer and account for about 30% of all cancers in children. The most common types in children are acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).


Symptoms include: Bone and joint pain, Fatigue, Bleeding, Fever, Weight loss.

2. Brain And Central Nervous System Tumors – Brain and central nervous system tumors are the second most common cancers in children. There are many types of brain tumors, and the treatment and outlook for each are different. Most brain tumors in children start in the lower parts of the brain. 


Symptoms include: Headaches, Dizziness, Balance problems, Vision, hearing or speech problems, Frequent vomiting.

3. Neuroblastoma – Neuroblastoma starts in immature nerve cells found in a developing embryo or fetus. About six percent of childhood cancers are neuroblastomas. This type of cancer occurs primarily in children younger than five years.


Symptoms include: Impaired ability to walk, Changes in eyes (bulging, dark circles, droopy eyelids), Pain in various locations of the body, Diarrhea, High blood pressure.

4. Wilms Tumor (Nephroblastoma) – It starts in one, or rarely, both kidneys. It is most often found in children about three to four years old and is uncommon in children older than six years.


Symptoms include: Swelling or lump in the belly, Fever, Pain, Nausea, Poor appetite.

5. Lymphoma – These cancers start in certain cells of the immune system called lymphocytes. They most often grow in lymph nodes and other lymph tissues, like the tonsils or thymus. Lymphomas can also affect the bone marrow and other organs, and can cause different symptoms depending on where the cancer is.


Symptoms include: Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin, weight loss, Fever, Sweats, Weakness.

Other types of cancer affecting children are Rhabdomyosarcoma, Retinoblastoma, and Bone cancers (Osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma).1


Cancers in Children

There are several rare types of cancers that occur in children and can, broadly, be grouped as:

  • Pancreatoblastoma, malignant rhabdoid tumors.
  • Melanotic neuroectodermal tumors of infancy cancers that usually only affect adults, such as cancers of the digestive system, the thyroid, and the adrenal gland.
  • Rare cancers in the head and neck area, such as nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • Rare hormonal/endocrine cancers, such as phaeochromocytoma.
  • Rare brain tumors, such as meningioma.
  • Rare skin cancers, such as melanomas.2

Do Childhood Cancer Go Undetected? How To Detect Them Early?

Cancers in children are sometimes hard to recognize because symptoms of malignancies in children are sometimes mistaken for symptoms of other childhood illnesses. Cancer can go undetected for too long.


According to a study, 80% of children have advanced disease at diagnosis. Thus, it is important to be very alert for signs of cancer in children. Also, the causes of most rare childhood cancers are unknown and sometimes the faulty genes may be genetically inherited.3

Signs Of Cancer In Children

To protect your child’s health and to watch out for the signs of cancer, observe your child for any sudden, persistent changes in health or behavior. Listed below are some signs to watch out for:

  1. Continued, unexplained weight loss.
  2. Headaches, often with early morning vomiting.
  3. Increased swelling or persistent pain in bones, joints, back, or legs.
  4. Lump or mass, especially in the abdomen, neck, chest, pelvis, or armpits.
  5. Development of excessive bruising, bleeding, or rash.
  6. Constant infections.
  7. A whitish color behind the pupil.
  8. Nausea which persists or vomiting without nausea.
  9. Constant tiredness or noticeable paleness.
  10. Eye or vision changes which occur suddenly and persist.
  11. Recurrent or persistent fevers of unknown origin.

Ways To Prevent Childhood Cancer

By identifying elements in the environment and making certain changes in our lifestyle that contribute to cancer, we can take steps to eliminate them and protect our children and ourselves.

  • Do not smoke – Kids look up to their parents and copy them. Never allow anyone in your family to smoke and don’t allow smoking in your home.
  • Breast-feed them longer – Breastfeeding infants for at least nine months helps to build their immune systems for life.
  • Encourage children to eat green vegetables – Vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, watercress, cauliflower, kale should be included in the diet.
  • Cut down processed foods – These foods contain very harmful chemical additives which may cause cancer.
  • Providing a safe environment – Don’t live near the main road, or a petrol station, if possible. Both have been associated with an increased risk of cancers like child leukemia. Also, avoid living near pylons, phone masts or power cables.
  • Go toxin-free in your kitchen and bathroom – Don’t use perfume or perfumed products on your skin when pregnant, as this may increase the risk of developing cancer in children.

Alternative Therapies For The Treatment Of Childhood Cancer

The most commonly used alternative therapies for the treatment of cancer in children includes hypnotherapy, relaxation, homeopathy, macrobiotic diet and multivitamins. Spiritualism, faith healing, meditation, mega-vitamins, chiropractic, massage, applied kinesiology, and light therapy are also used.