Pediatric Cancer: Importance of Early Detection and Signs To Watch Out For

Pediatric Cancer: Importance of Early Detection and Signs To Watch Out For

Remember, most of the childhood cancers are curable. Here are some signs and symptoms in children that parents should not ignore.

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : September 22, 2023 7:01 PM IST

Childhood cancer represents a devastating reality impacting thousands of families globally. While the spectre of pediatric cancer can be terrifying, identifying it at an early stage is pivotal for enhancing treatment results. Recognizing the indicators and symptoms serves as the initial stride in guaranteeing timely and necessary care for children.

Unlike cancers in adults, pediatric cancers typically exhibit heightened aggressiveness but offer a more favourable response to treatment when detected early. Early identification can determine whether the condition remains manageable or becomes more challenging to treat. Below are some compelling reasons why early detection holds such significance:

  • Enhanced Survival Rates: Diagnosing cancer at an early stage significantly heightens the likelihood of a successful treatment outcome, thereby boosting survival rates.
  • Reduced Need for Aggressive Treatment: Advanced-stage cancer often necessitates more intensive interventions like chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. Their doses and duration are also usually smaller in early stage of disease. Thus, early detection can sometimes pave the way for less invasive treatment options.
  • Enhanced Quality of Life: Detecting cancer in its early stages can curtail the long-term side effects of treatment (due to less intensive treatment), fostering an improved overall quality of life for the afflicted child.

Indicators and Symptoms Worthy of Attention

Unexplained Weight Loss: If a child experiences a substantial and inexplicable weight loss, it might serve as an indication of cancer.

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Persistent Fever or Fatigue: A child persistently running a fever with no apparent cause or enduring extreme fatigue should warrant medical evaluation.

Lumps or Swelling: Tangible lumps or swellings in the abdomen, neck, or other body regions should not be disregarded.

Pain: Sustained and unexplained pain, especially in bones or the head, can be suggestive of cancer.

Vision Alterations: Changes in vision, such as double vision or a white glow in the eye, could signal eye cancer (retinoblastoma).

Frequent Infections: Frequent infections or illnesses may signify a compromised immune system, which can be a symptom of leukaemia or lymphoma.

Altered Balance or Coordination: Abrupt changes in a child's balance or coordination may be linked to brain tumours.

Easy Bruising or Bleeding: Unexplained bruising or bleeding can be a symptom of leukaemia.

Persistent Vomiting or Headaches: Consistent vomiting, particularly in the morning, or severe headaches may be related to brain tumours.

Sudden Eye Misalignment: The sudden misalignment of a child's eyes could be indicative of a brain tumour.

While many of these symptoms might have alternative, less severe explanations, it is imperative to consult a healthcare professional if they persist or worsen. Regular well-child check-ups are indispensable for early detection. Furthermore, parents should trust their instincts if they sense something amiss with their child's health, seeking medical counsel is prudent.

Most of the childhood cancers are curable. Early detection of pediatric cancer stands as a pivotal factor in enhancing outcomes and securing a better quality of life for afflicted children. Parents and caregivers must remain vigilant, be well-informed about signs and symptoms, and promptly seek medical attention if concerns regarding their child's health arise. With early detection and advancements in treatment, there is a ray of hope for a brighter future for children confronting cancer.

The article is authored by Dr. Arushi Aggarwal, Consultant - Pediatric Hematologist & Oncologist, Asian Hospital Faridabad.