Cancer in Children

11 January 2020

Cancer in Children

Cancer in children is rare, but parents cannot afford to take this disease lightly. In the United States, as many as 15,600 new cases involve cancer among children and adolescents between the ages of 0 and 19. In Malaysia, an average of 750 to 800 new cases are recorded each year.

Sunway Medical Centre Consultant Paediatric Haematologist and Oncologist, Dr Eni Juraida Abdul Rahman said the early signs of cancer among children is difficult to identify because it can sometimes resemble common infections and trauma that often happen in children.

There are some symptoms that indicate that children may have cancer and parents must be aware of it. Among the signs include persistent or recurrent fever, paleness and bleeding in the skin like bruises or from the nose, gums and in urine.

If a child’s centre circle of the eye (pupil) appears white, it may be a symptom of eye cancer or retinoblastoma. Also, eyes that appear to be looking in different directions and is swollen may be signs of cancer involving the eye muscles.

“If the child shows any of these signs or if the symptoms persists, or if it happens too frequently and for no particular reason, parents should take their child to see a doctor for further examination,” Dr Eni Juraida said.

Cancer in children is divided into two groups, namely cancer involving the blood system such as leukaemia and lymphoma and solid cancers in the brain, kidney, liver, bone and muscles.

Leukaemia originates in the blood cells in the bone marrow. It is a systemic disease that is not classified by stages unlike cancers in the kidneys or bones which have stages.  

The most common cancer in children is blood cancer or leukaemia, and brain tumour. Yet, the types of cancer that affect children is not much different from those that adults face.

“Leukaemia is the most common cancer among children, with almost 30% of them suffering of this disease. This is followed by brain cancer accounting for almost 25% of all cancers in children.

“Genetics is a contributing risk factor to cancer in children but the risk is low. To date, the cause of cancer in children is still unknown compared to adults who are often influenced by unhealthy lifestyles,” Dr Eni Juraida said.

With the use of technology today, gynaecologists and obstetricians can detect tumour growth in the foetus and if a tumour is detected at this stage, the specialist will monitor the pregnancy, birth process and treatment of the baby. The tumour can be determined whether cancerous or not only through a tissue examination or biopsy that is usually performed after birth.

Dr Eni Juraida strongly advises parents to not delay seeing a doctor if they notice their child showing any persistent signs or symptoms of cancer. It is advisable to proceed with treatment without delay as cancer can spread over time and rapid treatment can help reduce the risks and increase the chances of recovery.

“There is no denying that the treatment for cancer in children is strenuous and requires a lot of patience and sacrifice. However, children with cancer have a high chance of recovery. Parents need to trust the doctor to do the treatment to ensure its success,” she said.

Source: Berita Harian