Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Removing the worry about cancer in children

When a child falls ill for no apparent reason or develops ‘odd’ symptoms,
some parents worry that cancer – where cells in the body start growing
‘out of control’ – may be to blame. The possibility that your child may have
cancer can creep into your mind, because cancer is potentially serious or
perhaps because you know someone whose child has been affected by it.
You’ve probably also seen stories on TV or read about youngsters with
cancer in newspapers and magazines.

Reassuringly, cancer in children is rare, and the vast majority of health problems
in children aren’t due to cancer.

Cancer is a serious diagnosis, however, with implications for the whole family
and people close to you, as well as the affected child. It can make your child
very ill and, although highly advanced treatments are available, cancer can
lead to premature death. Many different types of cancer can occur, but most
are very rare. The main types of cancer in children and adolescents include:

✓ Bone cancer.
✓ Brain tumour.
✓ Cancer of soft tissues.
✓ Leukaemia (cancer of the blood).
✓ Lymphoma (cancer of the lymph tissue).

The main features of cancer – in adults as well as children – are symptoms
that tend to develop gradually and that you can’t explain otherwise, and
health problems that may be ‘unusual’ and unlike anything that you’ve noticed
before in your child. Because symptoms tend to develop slowly, spotting
cancer can be quite difficult, even for health professionals. To help, here’s a
list of some danger signs. Consult your GP for further assessment, to rule out
the possibility of cancer, if you’re in doubt or if your child:

✓ Complains of an ongoing and worsening headache, which may be accompanied
by vomiting, limb weakness or other ‘odd’ symptoms such as
problems with vision, concentration or performing simple tasks.
✓ Complains of unexplained constant bone pains that aren’t due to injury.
✓ Develops lumps and bumps anywhere on her body that get bigger with
time or don’t disappear – and that you can’t explain.
✓ Feels increasingly unwell and tired for more than a couple of weeks or
so, for which you can find no other explanation (remember, though, that
tiredness is rarely due to cancer).
✓ Loses weight for no apparent reason.
✓ Starts to look very pale without apparent reason (many kids look pale
and ‘off colour’ at times due to simple viral or other infections, which is
normal – in these cases, the colour returns when the illness is over).
✓ Suffers from bad regular night sweats that soak her pyjamas and mild,
unexplained fevers that aren’t due to a cold or other minor infection.
✓ Suffers from unexplained ‘nervous’ symptoms such as numbness, tingling,
limb weakness, new squinting, seizures, ‘strange’ behaviour or any
other symptoms that gradually appear and refuse to go away, or become
worse with time.
✓ Suffers from unexplained shortness of breath.

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