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Childhood Cancer

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Childhood Cancer

By: Amanda Bone

July 11, 2010


Bruce Gould

The body is made up of hundreds of millions of living cells. Normal body cells grow, divide, and die in an orderly fashion. During the early years of a person's life, normal cells divide faster to allow the person to grow. After the person becomes an adult, most cells divide only to replace worn-out or dying cells or to repair injuries. Cancer begins when cells in a part of the body start to grow out of control. There are many kinds of cancer, but they all start because of out-of-control growth of abnormal cell (American Cancer Society, 2010).

About 10,730 children in the United States under the age of 15 were diagnosed with cancer in 2009 (American Cancer Society, 2010). Because of the major treatments advances, 80% of these children will survive five years or more. This is a huge increase from before the 1970s, when the five year survival rate was less than 50%. Despite the advances in treatments and supportive care, cancer is still the leading cause of death from disease in children younger than five years old. About 1,380 children are expected to have died from cancer in 2009 (American Cancer Society, 2010).

The types of cancers that occur in children vary greatly from those seen in adults. The most common cancers of children are leukemia's, brain and other nervous system tumors, lymphomas, bone cancers, soft tissue sarcomas, kidney cancers, and eye cancers.

Leukemia's are the most common childhood cancers. They account for about 33% of all childhood cancers. Acute lymphocytic leukemia and acute myelogenous leukemia are the most common types of leukemia in children.

Brain and nervous system cancers are the second most common cancers in children, making up about 21% of childhood cancers. Most brain cancers of children involve the cerebellum or brain stem.

Neuroblastoma is a form of cancer that starts in certain types of nerve cells found in a developing embryo or fetus. This type occurs in infants and young children. It is most often found during the first year of life. It is rarely found in children older than 10. This type of cancer accounts for about 7% of childhood cancers.

Wilms tumor is a cancer that starts in one, or rarely, both kidneys. It is most often found in children about three years old, and is uncommon in children older than six. It can show up as a swelling or lump in the belly. This type of cancer accounts for about 5% of childhood cancers (American Cancer Society, 2010).

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma are cancers that start in the lymph tissues, such as the tonsils, lymph nodes, and thymus. These cancers may spread to bone marrow and other organs, which can cause different symptoms depending on where it is growing. Hodgkin's lymphoma can occur in both children and adults, and accounts for about 4% of childhood cancers. It is more common, though, in two age groups: early adulthood (age 15-40, usually people in their 20s) and late adulthood (after 55). Hodgkin lymphoma is rare in children younger than five years of age. About 10% to 15% of cases are diagnosed in children and teenagers. About 81 out of 100 people diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are alive one year after the disease is diagnosed. About 63 out of 100 people with the disease are alive at five years, and 49 out of 100 at 10 years (Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, 2005-2010).

Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common soft tissue sarcoma in children. It makes up a little more than 3% of childhood cancers. Retinblastoma is a cancer of the eye. It is rare, accounting for just under 3% of childhood cancers. It usually occurs in children under the age of four, and is seldom found in children older than six (American Cancer Society, 2010).

Primary bone cancers occur most often in children and adolescents. Primary bone cancer is different from metastatic bone cancer, which is cancer that has spread from another site to the bone. Metastatic bone cancer is more common than primary bone cancer because many types of cancer can spread to the bone. The two types of primary bone cancers that occur in children are: osteosarcoma is uncommon, accounting for almost 3% of all new childhood cancer cases in the United States. The second type is Ewing sarcoma which is a less common primary bone cancer which can cause bone pain. It is mostly found in adolescents. It accounts for a little more than 1% of childhood cancers (American Cancer Society, 2010).

The risk factor and causes of childhood cancer is anything that changes your chances of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Lifestyle-related risks are thought to be the main factors that affect cancer risk in adults. Lifestyle-related risk factors have little or no affect on childhood cancer.

Preventing childhood cancer is the same as the risk factors for childhood cancer there is no one thing that can be the main cause of childhood cancer. Unlike many cancers of adults, there are no avoidable risk factors that are known to influence your child's risk of developing cancer (American Cancer Society, 2010).

Finding childhood cancer in children is often hard to recognize early. Parents should be sure that their children have regular medical check-up and watch for any unusual signs or symptoms that do not go away. Some of these signs and symptoms are: an unusual lump or swelling, unexplained paleness and loss of energy, easy bruising, an ongoing pain in one area of the body, limping, unexplained fever or illness that does not go away, frequent headaches often with vomiting, sudden ye or vision



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